Welcome to my guest Kate Brandes, author of THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD


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Kate goddessBrandes lives in the small river town of Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two sons.  She’s worked as a geologist and environmental scientist for twenty years.  Currently, she’s focused on improving local ecology using native plants in small public and residential gardens. Kate is also a fiction writer and artist and has recently published her debut novel The Promise of Pierson Orchard. Kate is visiting my blog today as part of an extended blog tour. If you’re interested in following Kate, you can find dates of future stops here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/02/vbt-promise-of-pierson-orchard-by-kate.html

Kate has taken time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about writing and the writing life:

Who are your literary influences or inspiration?

I tend to prefer spare writing and I love stories about small towns. I also like nature themes. Kent Haruf, Richard Russo and Barbara Kingsolver are all writers I admire and hope to learn from by reading their work.

Why do you write?

I write primarily as a way to figure things out. Whenever I’ve been faced with a problem, I’ve journaled all my life. So writing is a way for me to naturally sort through things. Writing fiction has proved to be very interesting in that regard. With journaling, I know what I’m wrestling with—it’s a conscious effort to resolve a problem. But with fiction, it’s a more subconscious process. My conscious intention is to tell a story that seems completely independent of any anything personal, but I was surprised to find after years of writing my first novel that I was also trying to work things out in the story subconsciously.

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

Writing is a great big spiraling process, at least for me. I start out with one thing and after more drafts than I can count, I get to the final version, but only by wrapping back to the beginning and traveling to the end many, many times over. goddess 2

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

I’ve spent my career, not as a writer, but as an environmental scientist. Sometime in my mid-thirties I decided to try writing fiction. I’ve always loved reading and felt I had stories I wanted to tell, but I had a lot to learn. I wrote my first short story and had it published in a tiny literary journal. The whole process took two years. I have a friend from high school that I haven’t seen since in more than twenty years who read that first story and wrote me and said she wanted to read more. I wrote her back and mentioned that I was thinking about writing a novel, but it would probably take a long time since I didn’t know what I was doing. She said she couldn’t wait to read it when it was finished. Another seven years went by as I wrote that novel and then went through the process of getting it published. My friend kept cheering me along the whole time, believing in me for whatever reason. And that really meant a lot to me. Her enthusiasm and belief in my abilities surpassed my own for a long time. I’m truly grateful to her.

At what moment did you decide you were a writer?

It took a long time. Probably longer than it should have. I think because I’ve had this long-held identity as an environmental scientist, it was hard for me to start calling myself a writer too. It really wasn’t until I signed a publishing contract a year ago that I started to believe that I could call myself a writer.

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?

My writing space serves multiple roles. It functions as my office for my environmental science work, my writing space, and also an art space (I like to dabble in painting and textile arts). It’s a relatively small room so I keep it pretty organized, so I can function. I love lists and have many post its.

What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

Learning to tell a story. Many people can write beautiful sentences, but learning to tell a story as a novel is an art form unto itself.

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

I’m drawn to my protagonist, Jack Pierson. He’s a broken person who has to face his greatest fears in order to find love and happiness.

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

Um…yes. Life is very full. So priorities are a must. The time I have for writing is much less than I would like. So sometimes I do put off a shower or the dishes until after I have words on the page.

What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?

I use passive language too much in my first drafts. I’m forever editing that out.

If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?

This is a fun question!
Jack – Patrick Dempsey, Wade – James Norton, LeeAnn – Angelina Jolie, and Stella – Meryl Streep

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 https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/

  • 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, Crosscut.com, 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 www.lisa-brunette.com.

  • 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:                                                                                              https://www.facebook.com/LisaBrunettePage1/






Author Photo: Regan House Photo

Writing Wall: Lisa Brunette


Meet the author of Dog Days in the Fortunate Islands!

Welcome To Tenerife! Enjoy the beautiful scenery and eternal spring with Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands by @AuthorDogDays #Travel ##ebook promotion #Europe #RPBP #ASMSG #WLM

Post Link: http://rukiapublishingbookblogger.blogspot.com/2016/04/welcome-to-tenerife-enjoy-beautiful.html

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Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands is an ideal read for those contemplating retirement, moving to the Canary Islands or an extended trip through Spain. The book will also appeal to any dog lovers and holidaymakers who enjoy an interesting story.

On the brink of retirement, John and his wife Sally are determined to end a life at the grindstone in grimy and wet Lancashire. Together with their beloved Jack Russell/Staffie cross, Freddie, a rescue dog from the local RSPCA, they embark on the journey of a lifetime and relocate to the island of Tenerife. 

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Selling up, they make the move to the north of Tenerife, a part almost unknown to the casual tourist – their very own hidden paradise. Relaxed and surrounded by stunning coastal views, life in their new home, set amidst orange groves and banana plantations, is very different indeed! The weather is fantastic, the temperature idyllic, the people so friendly and the cost of living outrageously low… what more could they ask for? 

Adjusting to life abroad, and all of the costs that come with it, are explained in the book – from buying a new home and sorting out living taxes, to integrating into the local community and taking the dreaded Spanish driving test. Follow John and Sally as they learn a new language and take on a couple of new hobbies, while Freddie takes off on some unbelievable (but true!) exploits with his new canine friends. 

With a colourful collection of characters, travelling anecdotes that stretch from the English Midlands and all the way through mainland Spain in an old classic car, and some not so perfect moments that bring us back down to earth from time to time, this is a series of adventures that you will not want to miss.

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Dog Days In The Fortunate Island Is Available in eBook & Paperback Format at Most Online Retailers. 


From April 29th through May 3rd the eBook is available at a huge discount! You can get this ebook for $1.99 at most good retailers! 

Click A Link below and get your copy today, you’ll love it!

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<span style=”font-size: x-large;”><i>I was born in 1943 at Derby Royal Infirmary, a war baby, and for the first 18 years of my life my home was in Ashby de la Zouch, an old market town in Leicestershire. I was sent away to become a boarder at Kings Mead Preparatory School, Seaford, and then Rugby School. Having been at Rugby has certainly stood me in good stead throughout my life, and I could not have asked for better.<table cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ class=”tr-caption-container” style=”float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;”><tbody>

<tr><td style=”text-align: center;”><a href=”https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1wWU1tsXyu8/VyK69pj4QqI/AAAAAAAABrw/M4sAP1bekf8UxWrrU2lm0b6vsqGgdsZlQCLcB/s1600/55978_1397938843770440_506513604_o.jpg&#8221; imageanchor=”1″ style=”clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;”><img border=”0″ height=”200″ src=”https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1wWU1tsXyu8/VyK69pj4QqI/AAAAAAAABrw/M4sAP1bekf8UxWrrU2lm0b6vsqGgdsZlQCLcB/s200/55978_1397938843770440_506513604_o.jpg&#8221; width=”198″ /></a></td></tr>

<tr><td class=”tr-caption” style=”text-align: center;”><b><span style=”font-size: small;”>John</span></b></td></tr>


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I am still not quite sure exactly how it came about (perhaps because my maternal grandfather was a solicitor) but I suddenly found myself articled to a firm of solicitors in Ashby. It was not a happy period for anyone concerned, although I have to concede that I learned a lot during my time there, but it was clear that I was too much of a free spirit to enjoy being chained to a desk for a pittance each week. The only highlights to my miserable years as a bookworm were trips out to criminal courts or prisons. I must have been to every prison in the Midlands.

Concurrently, I was commissioned into the Territorial Army and still proudly display my certificate signed by HM The Queen.

When my parent’s marriage began to founder, I relocated to West Sussex to help out at their latest venture, a country hotel. My few weeks’ offer of help (neither of my parents having even the slightest knowledge of, or interest in, the hotel industry) turned into some 35 years, with me taking over from them, changing and extending the place considerably along the way. My restaurant in the hotel held 2 AA Rosettes for food for a number of years right up until I sold the business.

My son Marcus, my pride and joy, was born in St. Richards Hospital, Chichester. As I write this, he has turned 41, and he is an accountant. Married to Tina, they have provided me with two lovely grandchildren, Josh and Sam.

After I sold my hotel I moved up to Lancashire, where I had met and later married Sally. We


started a new business together, a commercial legal services company, something completely new for both of us. During that time we encountered a puppy, Freddie, a Jack Russell/Staffie cross, who we “rescued” from the RSPCA and fell in love with.

We sold out on a high after some 10 years, enabling us to seriously consider the move to Tenerife. With nothing to hold us back, we made the life-changing move, and have not regretted it. Did I think that retirement would be relaxation in the sunshine? Far from it! I think that I have never been so busy, and the latest of my activities is becoming restaurant reviewer for the main Canary Islands newspaper. I was flattered to have been invited to the position. Our exploits in Tenerife with Freddie form the backbone of the stories in my first book.


My second book is an entirely different proposition, a different genre, and written in a completely different style. When a cache of letters, written by my father to my mother during the years of World War 2 eventually came in to my possession, I concluded that I should share some of them with a wider audience. In between a selection of those letters is traced the story of his life over those five long war years. It fascinated me to learn of the day to day life of an enlisted man – and later officer – as the war progressed to its inevitable conclusion, though finally without him as he languished behind the wire in a POW camp in Germany after having been captured on the battlefields of Normandy. And so his story has finally been written and my second book has now made it into print.

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Author John Searancke is offering everyone that purchases Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands a chance to win 1 of 3 eCopies of Prunes For Breakfast! 

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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: info@KarenHuleneBartell.com. Check online: www.KarenHuleneBartell.com

Sacred Gift is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Gift-Journey-2/dp/1942428146/ref) and Pen-L Publishing (http://www.Pen-L.com/SacredGift.html), 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—http://www.andilit.com.

·      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.