“Before that morning, I hadn’t cried since I was thirteen years old. Sadly, that’s not an exaggeration. But in the middle of that short conversation with Ernie Cox and the rest of the committee, the streak was broken. Warm tears rolled down my cheeks. Not because I felt happy — though I definitely felt happy — but because I felt like I’d been forgiven for all my shortcomings as a writer. This job can be a lonely, lonely ride. And there are moments when it’s nearly impossible to maintain a belief in yourself. Ninety-nine percent of the time the words don’t seem quite good enough. Or the characters don’t seem quite real enough. Or, worst of all, you don’t feel quite talented enough. At the end of every single workday, I find myself muttering the same two sentences, over and over. “I should have accomplished more today. I should have been better.” But on the morning of January 11th, these people on the phone were telling me I had done something good. Something worthy.”
Although Sara Walter Ellwood left the farm long ago for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia.
She’s also a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up, as well as dabbling in the paranormal genre with her The Hunter’s Dagger Series (previously published under the pen name Cera duBois).
So, needless to say, I’m thrilled to have Sara on my blog today, introducing her most recent novel, Heartland (Singing to the Heart Book 3)…
Sex, drugs, and country music. That was the lifestyle for Emily Kendall, a Texas girl who hit it big on the country music charts—until she found herself pregnant and battling addiction. Now out of rehab and seeking a new life for herself and her unborn child, Emily returns to her hometown of McAllister. The last thing she’s looking for is trouble, no matter how good it looks in uniform…
A widower, single father, and former Army Ranger struggling with PTSD, Sheriff EJ Cowley has his own demons to battle while keeping folks safe. The last thing he needs is a troubled celebrity speeding through town in her bright red Maserati. But when someone from Emily’s past threatens her safety and the peace of McAllister, EJ has no choice but to protect her. And soon both will learn there’s more to the other than meets the eye. And that wounded hearts can love again…
“I’m sorry, but I can’t ride you right now.” Emily kissed the horse above her nose, and Tink nuzzled her cheek. “We’ll go out tomorrow. How about that?”
“I remember when you rode that horse everywhere you went.”
Startled by the deep voice, she turned. EJ Cowley leaned on the top rail of the fence, and from the look of it, he’d been there for a while. He’d changed out of the brown uniform of the McAllister County sheriff’s department. She couldn’t help looking him over. Dressed in worn boots, faded jeans, a blue western shirt, and a brown Stetson, he epitomized every sexy cliché existing about how a cowboy should look.
Her heart sped up at the way those clothes fit him. Which irritated the hell out of her. She turned back to her horse and stroked her long face. “What are you doing here?”
“My sister-in-law watches my son while I’m at work.”
She stilled. Had she been quasi-lusting after a married man? Hadn’t he married Raquel Marshall? She glanced over her shoulder at his left hand. No ring. But then a lot of cowboys didn’t wear their wedding bands when they were working. The risk of getting it caught on something was too great.
Despite his clothes, he must have come off duty as the county’s ticket-happy sheriff not too long ago. She patted Tink’s shoulder. “See you in the morning, girl.” As she headed toward the man, who was not hiding the fact he appreciated what he saw, she guessed he wasn’t still married, but she’d been around the world a few times and knew not to take a man’s blatant interest as proof of anything. “You have a son. How is Raquel these days?”
She was close enough to notice his gray eyes had turned as haunted as a gravestone when she asked about his wife. He looked to the left, toward his brother’s house, and from the way a muscle twitched in his jaw, he must have gritted his teeth.
“She committed suicide two years ago today.”
“Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she stammered. What else had happened to the people she’d once considered friends she was unaware of? “How old is your little boy?”
He took a deep breath and met her gaze again. She studied his eyes as they moved over her face. God, he had the most fascinating eyes. They weren’t truly blue, but the gray was an odd shade. Too light to be slate, but too dark to be silver. They reminded her of her great-grandmother’s pewter candleholders.
As silence engulfed them, she turned to head for the gate. She had no idea what was up with the sheriff, and she didn’t like her desire to ask. EJ Cowley may have filled her schoolgirl fantasies, but she wasn’t the wide-eyed kid who crushed after the local cowboy-turned-soldier.
At the sound of her name, she glanced past EJ to the porch. Johnny stood there with his toy lightsaber and x-wing. She promised to play a video game with her brother. “Well, it was good seeing you again, EJ.”
She was halfway across the drive when his voice stopped her. “By the way”–He cleared his throat–“I lost your ticket…”
Stopping in the middle of the driveway, she looked over her shoulder at him. His face puckered as if he’d eaten a lemon soaked in vinegar. He took his hat off and ran a hand through his short hair. The setting sun turned the tresses a gleaming gold.
“You lost it?” Damned if she’d make it easy on him. “After going through all the trouble of stopping me a mile away from home?”
Setting his hat back on his head, he cleared his throat again and stood with his feet apart. He gave a quick jerk with his head in the affirmative. “Can’t find it anywhere. No ticket. No proof. You’re off the hook.”
Holy crap, he was gorgeous, and heat flooded her to pool in her belly. She turned, not wanting him to see the way he affected her, and headed for the porch, then lied through her teeth.
“Good, because I’ve already tossed it.” She had every intention of paying the fine, but she was glad he lost the ticket. No decent cop would lose a ticket. Maybe he did it out of remembrance of their childhood friendship. Or was he as attracted to her as she was to him?
With an inward shake of herself, she didn’t let a possible answer formulate in her muddled brain. She couldn’t be anything to him. You’re pregnant with another man’s child and don’t need the added stress! At the door into the kitchen, she ruffled Johnny’s hair and turned, ignoring her self-admonishment. “See you around, EJ.”
“Yeah… See you around.” He tipped his hat and turned on his heel to amble toward his extended cab Silverado.
From inside the screen door, she watched the way he filled out the backside of his Wrangler’s and muttered, “Hell yeah, I hope so.”
If you’d like to see more excerpts, check them out here:
Find Sara online
The other books in Singing to the Heart
Heartstrings, Book 1 and Heartsong, Book 2 are also available in ebook and print.
For other vendor links and book information check out Sara’s website page.
I have been blessed by the fathers in my life: my father Stan Fanning, my grandfathers Paul Fanning and John Walsh, and my stepfather Pete Rathbone. So in honor of today, I’m re-posting a series of blogs I published two years ago, starting with Pete, perhaps the most generous man I’ve ever known. Happy Father’s Day, Pete!
A series celebrating the men who have shown me the meaning of dignity and courage, as well as giving me a love for books, skiing, and RVing (and an appreciation for wrench collecting).
We arrived in Seattle as the Texas A&M Marching Band jammed on the cd player. P.T. (Pete) Rathbone steered his SUV with one hand and increased the volume with the other. My mom tapped along to the beat of drums while still immersed in reading the Wall Street Journal. And I sat in the backseat, cocooned by Aggie music, Cascade Mountains, and gray sky.
An Aggie alum, Pete plays the marching band every Saturday morning before the football team takes to the field. It’s a good-luck ritual, a reflection of Pete’s many interests, which range from farming to wrench-collecting to traveling.
Technically, Pete’s my stepfather but that word somehow reminds me of Cinderella and scrubbing floors–blame it on my strange imagination. Besides, Pete is more than a simple label—he’s friend, confidante, and co-conspirator. He’ll just as easily sit by your hospital bed as take you on a Caribbean cruise. He’s first to donate to a cause or tackle a pasture full of noxious weeds.
The Aggie music continued as we drove onto the ferry for Bainbridge Island. Pete, Mom, and I were silent, admiring the Seattle skyline to the rousing thrum of trumpets, tubas, and drums.
I had never cared much for marching band music before but that has changed, all because of a wrench-collecting Aggie with a generous heart.
Click on the links below to read the rest of my Father’s Day series:
A gust of wind scattered leaves across the University of Seattle campus. My hair tangled over my face. New contacts tortured my eyes, and books weighed down my backpack. It didn’t matter. A tornado could have snatched me up. As long as it carried me home and put an end to the anniversary of the worst day of my life.
“Watch out, Gabby.” My best friend Frank thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his pinstriped suit. “We’re being followed by a giant candy corn.”…
It was a story born as I learned how to knit, wrapping yarn around my fingers and listening to the music of my knitting needles as they tapped together. I ended up with a scarf, as well as a rough draft.
Years prior, I had read about an Italian woman, who had become trapped underneath her bed during an earthquake and kept herself occupied by knitting. I imagined firefighters digging through the rubble and finding her snuggled inside a knitted afghan.
The story tumbled around in my brain, somehow intersecting with my interest in Mexican culture. From there, I discovered the Mayan twin myth and the battle with the demon Vucub Caquix. Bit and pieces of Mayan mythology adhered themselves to my imagination, morphing into a history of magic and needlework.
After several rounds of feedback, revisions, publisher research, acceptance by Kensington, and final input from the fabulous editor Penny Barber, the final version of Blood Stitches appeared on May 12, 2015.
Since then it’s been a year of blog touring, tweeting, Facebooking, monitoring sales, and learning more about social media and promotion than I ever imagined… not the natural state for most writers, who are introverts at heart (particularly this one).
Somewhere along the way, I lost the thread connecting me to my magical-knitting family and the other characters from Blood Stitches. Thankfully, it recently returned.
Bone Needles, a sequel to Blood Stitches, has been pouring from my fingers, appropriately enough while I knit an afghan, the colorful yarn blending with eccentric characters and Mayan mythology until it forms a tapestry of words and needles.
Now, what are you waiting for? Head out into the Webosphere and buy a copy of Blood Stitches—read it, love it, and leave a review!
In the beginning, Steve was just a boy at the bus stop, befriending me during my first week at a new school district, but after only a short time, his companionship wove its way into the fabric of my life, a colorful thread binding us together. My adventures with Steve grew into an integral part of my youth, vital memories that I carry everywhere, and without them, I think a part of my childhood would unravel altogether, vanishing forever.
He approached me, almost forty years ago, while I was sitting at the curb, waiting for the school bus. A total book nerd, I hid behind a paperback copy of Gone with the Wind, and hoped, yet also dreaded, that someone might talk to me and pull me out of my shyness.
Steve had no such reservations. He launched into a discussion of the movie with opinions about Clark Gable or Vivien Leigh or a combination of both. I quickly learned that Steve had lots of opinions. Some I agreed with–some simply annoyed me–but I always appreciated our conversations. And now, looking back after all these years, I wish I could remember the particulars of our rambling talks, lost forever in the shadows of my memory.
But I do remember an immediate recognition, a feeling that Steve and I shared something beyond our ages and hometown. Perhaps it was an appreciation for the whimsical or an expansive imagination or maybe even a mutual fragility.
Regardless, our friendship transformed from bus-stop conversations to after-school visits to long days spent together during summer vacations. And it’s those latter memories that come to me the most, the specifics somewhat lost to time, but as much a part of me as the feeling of Idaho’s sun baking my arms or grass pricking at my bare feet.
The schedule was simple: swim team for me followed by mornings with Steve, playing Monopoly or “Cheat” Sorry, our own version of the game in which players were allowed to move their game-piece extra spaces if their opponent didn’t notice.
When we tired of board games, we explored the cliffs overlooking the Boise River behind my house or played croquet, adding an occasional “Cheat Sorry” move by nudging the ball along with our feet. We even went through a short, disastrous phase of learning how to bake soufflés and a much more disastrous attempt at brewing our own herbal teas, all efforts equally dreadful.
And with every day, every new activity, Steve brought his own unique brand of enthusiasm and curiosity, firmly cemented in kindness and patience.
Never more so than we initiated a book club of sorts, just the two of us, reading science fiction like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We consumed the novel; or rather it consumed us, until all we could talk about was our desire to hitchhike across the universe with Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent. Our imaginings became so vivid, so real, that I could actually see us exploring galaxies with our two fictional heroes.
But my galaxy-traveling friend, the boy from the bus stop, is gone now, murdered almost a week ago. Even as I write these words, my own fingers tapping on the keys, I can’t believe it’s possible. It has to be a macabre fiction, created by a cruel mind, but the evil was real.
I won’t go into the specifics of his death—the details have been covered on various Boise-area media outlets—but I will say that the men responsible must be punished to the full extent of the law.
At the end, my dear friend exhibited a courageous clarity, in evidence even when we were young, by identifying his assailants, which led the police to several arrests and hopefully saved countless others from brutality.
They might have taken away my childhood companion, a man whose huge heart and kindness reached many, but his presence will always reside within me through endless memories. In my mind, I see him befriending a lonely 11-year-old at the bus stop and making that girl laugh with his original comments. But most of all I see him with his thumb out, hitchhiking his way around the galaxy, buzzing past stars, and conquering new planets, fully immersed in the joy of exploration.
Spring might have appeared just last week, but summer is already on my mind, partially because of the arrival of Competing With The Star, the second in the Star Series (Limitless Publishing), by Krysten Lindsay Hager, with its promise of escapism and pure fun as perfect as a hot, summer day at the beach.
Hadley Daniels’s life seems perfect…
Before the beginning of sophomore year of high school, Hadley and her family move to a beautiful beach town, where she makes amazing new friends and lands the boyfriend of her dreams—Nick Jenkins. He’s the kind of guy every girl swoons over, and it isn’t long until Hadley discovers some are still swooning.
A famous ex-girlfriend makes matters more complicated…
After some time dating, Hadley and Nick form a deep bond. But insecurity sets in when Hadley discovers her boyfriend once had a huge crush on her friend—who just happens to be the beautiful former teen TV star, Simone Hendrickson.
The past is the past—or so they say…
Hadley confronts Nick, who confesses about his history with Simone. Though he claims to only have eyes for Hadley now, it’s hard to believe—especially when she’s blindsided with the news that Nick and Simone kissed after school.
Now Hadley must determine who is telling the truth. Love, betrayal, friendship…who needs soap opera drama when you’re busy competing with a star?
Two days passed and Nick hadn’t called again. I couldn’t blame him. After all, I had pushed for him to be honest and then had bailed on him. I’m sure he was mad at me for telling him he could tell me the truth and then I punished him for it—and he would be right. I couldn’t handle the icky feelings, and instead of being a big girl and dealing with them, I came home from school and retreated into the world of books. A world where people were kidnapped, jewels were stolen, but nobody’s heart ever got broken because in my favorite series, The Raven Chronicles, Raven’s boyfriend, Fernando, was ever faithful and loyal and would never even look at another girl. He was the perfect book boyfriend. In other words, he was fictional and didn’t exist.
I saw I had a text from Simone. Oh great, maybe she was asking for my blessing to go out with Nick, or if I was still planning to go to Watson High School next year so she could make out with him in a different hallway from my locker.
Simone: Are you mad at me? Nick said you’re upset because you found out he used to like me.
Oh fabulous. He told her the whole gross story. Well, of course he did, seeing as how he was always over with her clique and he could tell the love of his life anything.
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
From Borneo to Baja, the adventurers in the following books face obstacles as frightening as any horror movie, except they can’t go home after the lights come on. Some readers will salivate over their stories, ready to sign up for the next trip, while the rest of us can simply enjoy a vicarious thrill, relieved to be reading from the comforts of home.
Snakes, scorpions, sharks, tarantulas, and whirlpools waited for Jonathon Waterman and his wife of one year when they launched their sea kayaks into the Vermilion Sea, better known as the Sea of Cortez. Their two month journey, recounted in Kayaking the Vermilion Sea: 800 Miles Down the Baja, is punctuated with lyrical observations.
Waterman tells of a rocky journey, including a competitive relationship with his wife that sometimes leaves him bobbing in the sea, alone and lost, while she races ahead. However, for every choppy day at sea there are moments of celebration: paddling with dolphins, a brilliant sunset, or the solitude of an uninhabited shoreline.
Departing from nonfiction into author Sandra Cox’s imaginative c, protagonist Piper Dunn straddles two worlds. Love, Lattes and Mutants–a page-turning romp through the world of teen romance–boasts expert touches of humor and a dash of life-threatening adventure (currently free at most distributors and the second in the series is only 99 cents!).
In her public life, Piper is a mousy high school student, hiding her astonishing beauty and trying to get through the day unnoticed. But in private, thanks to her dolphin DNA, she is a defender of ocean creatures, rescuing dolphins and other marine animals from danger. Eventually, Tyler, a hunky new boy at school, starts to see through Piper’s disguise and wants to get to her know better. And Piper has difficulty saying no. (Read the rest of my review here.)
Back in the realm of memoir, Ann Linnea describes the extreme solitude she discovers when she becomes the first woman to circumnavigate Lake Superior in a sea kayak. She tells her story in Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife, a humble account of an extraordinary adventure. Paddling in a rudderless sea kayak, Linnea battles not only unforgiving Lake Superior but a desire to make a major life change.
If you push past Linnea’s New Age babble, you are rewarded by an inspirational story full of Lake Superior’s imagery: towering freighters, tree-shrouded islands, and hearty Lake Superior natives. Linnea returns home with not only sore shoulders but the resolve to recreate herself.
While Linnea was forced to travel light due to limited storage space, Tracy Johnston had no choice. She arrived in Jakarta to raft Borneo’s Boh River while her luggage stayed in Los Angeles. Instead of taking this as a sign to head home, she bravely plunges into a series of misadventures, recounted with humor and passion in Shooting the Boh: A Woman’s Voyage Down the Wildest River in Borneo.
Hired by the trip’s sponsor to write about the first rafting attempt of the treacherous Boh, Johnston is joined by not only the guides but two fashion models, a rich Italian, two Australians, and a Chicago attorney. As the journey becomes more challenging, from foot rot to waterfalls, this personality jumble deteriorates into a group of solo travelers intent on survival.
Whether writing memoir or fiction, all of these authors are such vivid storytellers that you will become lost in their adventures: swatting at the black flies Linnea encounters; dripping with perspiration while Johnston describes Borneo’s moist jungle; shivering with cold when yet another wave drenches Waterman; or marveling at the underwater world Cox invents.
Once again, my buddies Manolo and Rafael Padilla have requested a revision road trip. With new chapters to explore and villains to discover, I’ll be gone for a while, sometimes traveling without a map, just hoping to find the end of the road. I should be back at some point this winter, but Mano and Rafi are always unpredictable, often requiring more attention than anticipated.
So happy reading and writing everyone! Enjoy these wintry months: the kiss of snowflakes falling in lacy patterns, dusky shadows wrapping the world in a muted embrace, and alpenglow reflecting off snow-laden slopes, creating pink cloud-islands in the sky.
A huge THANK YOU to Erin for allowing me blog space to share some exciting news. Kensington Publishing is doing a Goodreads Giveaway for a paperback copy of my upcoming release, A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. There will be two—count ‘em two—winners. The giveaway is open now through February 29th (how cool, a leap year). If you’re interested, you can enter here:
A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS is a tale of mystery and suspense centered around events that took place in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. You’ll discover a small river town plagued by tragic history and rumored sightings of the Mothman—a terrifying creature said to haunt an abandoned WWII munitions site.
The characters are everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances—secrets, betrayal, murder. I hope you find the blurb intriguing:
Behind a legend lies the truth…
As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real…
Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse, but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer…
A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS releases on April 26th, but the ebook version is already available from Amazon and all other major book sellers. If you’d like to pre-order you can find a complete list of links here.
In the meantime, I invite you sign up for the paperback giveaway at Goodreads and tell your friends! The Mothman Cometh!
Mae Clair has been chasing myth, monsters and folklore through research and reading since she was a kid. In 2013 and 2015, she journeyed to West Virginia to learn more about the legendary Mothman, a creature who factors into her latest release.
Mae pens tales of mystery and suspense with a touch of romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and numbers cats, history and exploring old graveyards among her passions.
Look for Mae Clair at the following haunts:
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Books fill my dreams and consume my waking thoughts. I long to be surrounded by piles of books–old and new, spines bursting through overuse, water-stained from reading in the bathtub, falling open to gorgeous illustrations, and Kindles challenging their electronic memories with thousands upon thousands of ebooks.
So, obviously, I begin the New Year with literary thoughts, including looking forward to the third installment of the Mutant series. And the good news is that the first in the series, LOVE, LATTES, AND MUTANTS, which also happens to be my favorite, is currently on sale for ninety-nine cents through Jan. 31! It’s a fun frolic, packed with high-school angst, a mutant heroine boasting super-hero abilities, and a delicious love interest. Read my review here.
Finding love is hard, even when you aren’t a mutant.
Like most seventeen-year-olds, Piper Dunn wants to blend in with the crowd. Having a blowhole is a definite handicap. A product of a lab-engineered mother with dolphin DNA, Piper spends her school days hiding her brilliant ocean-colored eyes and sea siren voice behind baggy clothing and ugly glasses. When Tyler, the new boy in school, zeroes in on her, ignoring every other girl vying for his attention, no one, including Piper, understands why…
Then Piper is captured on one of her secret missions rescuing endangered sea creatures and ends up in the same test center where her mother was engineered. There she discovers she isn’t the only one of her kind. Joel is someone she doesn’t have to hide from, and she finds herself drawn to the dolph-boy who shares her secrets. Talking to him is almost as easy as escaping from the lab. Deciding which boy has captured her heart is another story…
Warning: Mutants, dolphins and hottie boys
About the author
Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She’s a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.