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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Book review: Rescue Trail by Darrel Sparkman



Jake Rawlings was broken. One senseless killing and the loss of his wife left him without an anchor. Guilt and bitterness pushed him to turn in his badge. When he decides to follow the trail of a lone woman on the prairie, he’s led to a feisty widow and her daughter fighting for their lives. Saving them was easy. Can he save himself?

My Review:
I quickly fell in love with this story from first page to last!! Rescue Trail is a charming little escape that gives you heart, laughter, and a touch of bad@ss excitement.

Jake is kinda lost and wandering around after losing his wife years ago and hasn't really figured out what to do next. Then he runs into a lady who needs a bit of help, but there's some sparks and attitude she's dishing out. Watching them play off the other and breathe some life back into Jake is a charming hoot.

If you want a quick little story to set up some fun daydreams (because really, I'd've loved to see this become a longer novella or even a full length novel.. Seeing Lady and Jake partner up and take on the world together would be awesome!!) or just to fully entertain when you don't got alot of time for an escape, this story would be perfect!

This part made me giggle probably more than it should have, but it's still so true.

“Lady, there’s only one rule in a gunfight.”
She looked at him with moist eyes. “Which is?”
He leaned toward her. “Don’t get shot.”

Purchase Link:

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


In the days before European settlement, prairie grasslands covered the Great Plains from west-central Canada to Texas. There were few trees, and those few were only found growing near water. Today, with development, fencing, plowing and planting food crops, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the scene that greeted the first settlers.

This summer, on my way to do some research Inga’s story in Laramie, Wyoming, my sister and I drove the length of South Dakota, from Sioux Falls to Rapid City and Custer. Along the way, I tried to imagine what the pre-settlement land as a potential setting for a future novel. And then, we made a stop at the Badlands National Park.

The formations found there, and in the surrounding area, are unique.


As we hiked a trail or two, I became confused. I felt that I was seeing grasses I had seen in remnants of native Tallgrass Prairie (usually found in the eastern part of the Great Plains) and species of grasses common to Shortgrass Prairie (usually found in the west regions). When we arrived at the visitor’s center, with its informative displays, I got my answer. Within the Badlands National Park we find the “largest extent of native mixed grass prairie in the park system,” with more than sixty species of grass growing there.

The Park provides a series of educational signs along the route.

Wisps of scrub and a few scraggly trees grow atop and sporadically along the sides of the eroded outcroppings. As we meandered through the park, we noted so subtle, and some not-so-subtle, variations in the colors of the formations. Granted, some of the subtle changes may have been affected by the varying light conditions.


The explanation for the spectrum of colors is that the Badlands were deposited in layers over millions and millions of years, over many historic periods with different environments including tropics, woodlands and meandering rivers, and seas. Oldest layers are at the bottom, more recent ones on top.

At one time, streams and rivers carried sediments from the Black Hills. This caused building up of the rock layers we see today. About 500,000 years ago, the Cheyenne River captured streams and rivers flowing from the Black Hills into the Badlands region. After this, the deposits stopped and erosion from winds and weather dominated.

The land is fascinating, and has made a unique backdrop for a variety of novels. My problem will be developing a fresh plot that rises to the grandeur of the Badlands.

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Romance of Snow

The romance of snow is a relatively recent idea. When the river Thames froze in the 'little ice age,' between the 15th and 19th centuries, people enjoyed great frost fairs on the river. Christmas was celebrated as the birth of Christ. Winter however was largely dreaded and endured, a time of little light, dwindling food, bad roads.

Nursery rhymes show us winter before the modern age:

Little Polly Flinders
Sat among the cinders,
Warming her pretty little toes.
Her mother came and caught her,
And whipped her little daughter
For spoiling her nice new clothes.

(Little Polly might also have suffered from chilblains by sitting with her feet so close to the fire.)

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

Roads could be very dangerous, especially in winter.

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Before central heating, keeping warm was difficult for everyone in winter. Following on from a custom begun in Victorian times, I always feed the birds in winter.

Pease porridge hot!
Pease porridge cold!
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

Food in winter could be sparse, less than fresh and dull.

As living conditions improved, people began to enjoy winter. There is a pleasure in watching snow fall and in making snowmen, having snowball fights, going for snowy walks. I love the trees in winter, so sculptured and stark.

I also enjoy setting romance stories in winter. The dark and cold of the season can give my hero and heroine something elemental to strive against. Their warning feelings for each other contrast with the bitter weather. And perhaps they can have a snowball fight...

Please see my medieval historical romances, "The Snow Bride", "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" and "Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts"for more. All these romance novels and novellas are published by Prairire Rose Publications and available via Amazon or the PRP website.

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Book Review: These Rough Dreams by Cheryl Pierson



When Southern socialite Gabrielle Mason discovers she’s pregnant, she takes her future into her own hands. She has her family name to consider, and a husband is what she needs. She answers an ad for a mail-order bride in Indian Territory. But the man who proposes isn’t the man she ends up marrying.

Johnny Rainbolt is not a family man by any stretch of the imagination…but Fate is about to give him no choice. His late sister’s three children will be arriving on the next stage, and he has no idea what to do with them. When cultured Gabby Mason is left waiting for her prospective groom at the stage station, Johnny sees a way to solve everyone’s problems.

Some dreams get off to a rough start. A mail-order marriage is only the beginning. When one of the children is stolen, Johnny and Gabby are forced to depend on one another in an unimaginable circumstance that could turn tragic… or show them what might become of THESE ROUGH DREAMS.

My Review:

Oh!!! I think I have a new favorite Cheryl Pierson short story!!!! (I say this often! lol) Johnny Rainbolt swept me away just like any worthy hero should.

I adored how Gabby and Johnny found each other, and by taking advantage of the situation given, determined to give each other the best of themselves. Their relationship was an answer to prayer neither even knew to ask for. They were both open and accepting and honest from the start with each other, which allowed for some easy moments before greater trials arrived.

I happy-sighed alot through this story and couldn't have wished for a better way for their dreams to come true.

Purchase Links:
You can either grab the individual story or you can find it in the Lassoing a Mail Order Bride anthology.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

New Release - Montana Heartbeat by Vella Munn

What kind of man will make a worthy husband? Beautiful Carrie Berrymen knows it’s not the half-wild Crow Indian who’s just saved her life! With wolves circling the prized longhorn calf and its mother, Carrie finds herself without a weapon. In the Montana wilds, Strong Eagle is the only protection she or the small, but all-important herd of runaway cattle has—and she must depend on the Crow warrior, like it or not.
Strong Eagle can’t deny the instant attraction he feels for the young woman who has taken on so much responsibility for her family’s well-being. The settlers are changing Montana—and not for the better. Though Strong Eagle admires Carrie’s courage and determination, he knows there can be no future for them—not with the differences in the ways of their people.
But as their younger brothers find common ground, Carrie and Strong Eagle learn that, though their worlds are different, they are becoming more alike than they ever thought. With the mountains in their blood, can they share the language of love in the same MONTANA HEARTBEAT?


     “Come back. Please.” Don’t desert me. “You must under­stand how much I need you, how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.”
     No. The stupid horse didn’t care about retribution as a result of her actions. Didn’t care about the human she’d aban­doned.
     Carrie was touching her shoulder when movement to her left and a fair distance away caught her attention. Her throat closed. Dread pulled her into its depths. Fighting for calm, she realized she wasn’t looking at a wolf after all. Instead—
     A man. On horseback. Coming her way.
     A saddleless horse and a man who was naked from the waist up. Wearing jeans and boots.
     An Indian.
     Someone help me, please!


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Reviews–The Bane of all Authors

By Becky Lower

.7 out of 5 stars

Every author knows that part of their marketing efforts should include getting their books reviewed on various sites in order to stimulate sales. Reviews tell a potential reader the book has appeal to a wide variety of readers. There are some advertising venues, such as The Fussy Librarian, that won’t allow an ad to run unless the book reaches the golden number of ten reviews. Amazon doesn’t take a book seriously unless it reaches that goal, either. Ten reviews is nothing for a well-known author to garner. But what about those authors who are just beginning the publishing journey or those who have only a small following and a smaller budget? After friends and family weigh in with a review, how does an author gain more? 

Sure, there are loads of sites eager to take an author's money in exchange for a review. But even though we all recognize the value of a review from a site like Kirkus, and we all see the benefit of being listed on NetGalley, most authors fall into the “starving artist” category and can’t begin to afford such services. But there are ways for even the poorest author to get reviews, if you have the time and persistence you need. 

Publishers have a handful of favorite review sites they send to but do little more, because of its time-consuming nature, to find new places to send your work. It falls to the author to ferret out ever-changing blog sites and reviewers who will be forthcoming with an honest review in exchange for a free copy of their book. So how do you weave your way through the various opportunities out there?

Start with the Basics

Regardless of how your book is being published—traditionally or self-published—there are friends and family you can reach out to. Ask for reviewers. You’ll find a few. If you have a newsletter, ask for ARC readers to get an advance read of your new book. 

 Expand to Known Review Sites

In order to be truly successful, you need reviews from legitimate review sites, and there are a ton of them out there. How to find them is the time-consuming part. But there is a strategic way to do it.

First, you need to become familiar with other authors who write in your genre. Look at the big names as well as mid-list authors and those just starting out. You’ll be able to find them through Amazon’s keyword system. Type in the genre you’re interested in, such as American historical romance or small-town contemporaries, and look at the author's reviews, see what names of review sites keep popping up, and write them down. Then, head to each reviewer’s website and check out their submission guidelines before you query. Some want the ARC submitted with the initial query; some only want the blurb and cover to begin with. This takes a boatload of time, but the payoff will be worth it.

If you have any experience with selling in the real world, be it helping your daughter with Girl Scout cookie orders or selling widgets in your day job, then you know that not everyone you approach is going to buy your product. You have to keep filling the funnel with names in the hopes that a small percentage will listen to you. But, if you do get some review sites to read your book, you can begin to develop relationships with the reviewers, so the next time will be easier.

Keep a Spreadsheet

Keep a spreadsheet of some kind of the various review sites, the genre they like to read (especially if you write in more than one genre), when you queried them, what book you queried for, their website, e-mail address, and contact info. Things can get confusing, so it’s always a good idea to keep things simple. That way, you’ll avoid backtracking and sending out duplicate requests.

Add on to Your Review

If a review site accepts your book, then take another look at their site to see if they offer author spotlights, guest posts, cover reveals or excerpts. These are ways to strengthen the review and to make certain the review appears on their website for longer than one day. Take advantage of this free publicity.

Keep track on some kind of calendar of where you’ll be appearing, and make certain you get whatever they need to the site in plenty of time to post it. Then, you need to announce your appearance on your website, to your chapter, your publisher, etc. The more people you can drive to the reviewer’s site, the more likely they’ll be to accept your next book for review. (You are already writing it, aren’t you?)

 Be Courteous

Most of all, be courteous when asking for or receiving a review. Remember, these people are not being paid for their time. They have other jobs, families, and outside obligations, just as you do. They are reading your book because they love the genre and love to discover new authors.

Not every review will be a 5-star one, because reading is subjective. A few 2- and 3-star reviews will make you look legitimate anyway and prove to potential buyers that it’s not just your mom who read your book. And every review, regardless of its content, counts. And that’s the big payoff.

And remember, every book you read has an author behind it who would appreciate a review, so after you reach the end, you're not done until you post a review on Amazon and Goodreads, at the very least. 

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. She loves to hear from her readers at Visit her website at

Monday, September 16, 2019

Launching Anna

I am not throwing away my shot!  Watch out, Lin-Manuel Miranda, it's my Hamilton moment!
photo by Marty Woess, Sharp Teeth Photography 

This past Thursday night, I had my first ever book launch event, for my first ever novel, Courting Anna.  It was a wonderful experience!

Although the novel came out at the end of July, there were a number of reasons to delay the event.  First, I live in New York City, and everyone who possibly can, spends as little time as possible here in August.   Second, I had an amazing venue, an early-19th century NeoGothic church . . . but the place isn’t air conditioned and here we circle back to the issues with NYC in August, aka potential heatwaves in the concrete jungle.  Third and most important, I needed to find a date when both the church and my “in conversation” partner, gaslamp fantasy novelist 
Leanna Renee Hieber, were available. 

photo by Marty Woess, Sharp Teeth Photography

We got the word out via social media and local press (when the New York Times is your local paper, that means neighborhood press instead!), but though we had a good crowd, in the end it was all friends turning out to support me.  Still, that turned any potential jitters into a very comfortable situation, as Leanna asked me questions and we talked about my book, her books, our writing process, and our beloved 19th century.  We each did a brief reading (me from Courting Anna and Leanna from her most recent, The Spectral City) and then took questions, which led to a really interesting back-and-forth with the audience.  And then we adjourned for snacks and chat, and of course book signings!

I’m pleased to say that I sold completely out of my author’s copies, while some of the folks who already had the book brought them to be signed.  Courting Anna bookmarks were also popular, and meant that friends who'd bought the ebook version could still take away a signed memento.

My first signing!  Photo by author friend Joseph R. Kennedy

The site, St. Peter’s Chelsea, an Episcopal Church which was built on land donated by Clement Clarke Moore (you might know a little something he wrote that begins with “’Twas the night before Christmas . . . “), was the perfect venue.  It’s a stunning building, one of the first NeoGothic structures in North America, consecrated in 1838, and has quite a storied history.  It was an especially wonderful venue to appear with Leanna, who is also an actress (Boardwalk Empire, among other things) and a licensed ghost tour guide, and who does her author appearances in Victorian mourning dress.

Everyone – especially the friend from college days who came all the way from Philadelphia to attend! – contributed so much, but I wanted to end with a special shoutout to some of the authors who turned out.  Mary Sheeran is the author of three novels and will be making her Prairie Rose debut this winter.  Kris Waldherr’s Victorian gothic The Lost History of Dreams is not to be missed.  Sarah-Jane McKenna’s cozy mystery series is off to a great start!     

Especial thanks to Leanna Renee Hieber -- check out -- and St. Peter's Chelsea for working with me to make this happen!

Photo by Beyond My Ken - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Courting Anna is available on Amazon:

Connect with Cate Simon:

Website & Blog:
Newsletter:  via website
Twitter: @CateSimon3


p.s.  Just in case you're less fascinated than I am by Broadway historical rap musicals that I can't actually afford tickets to go and see, this is what my husband and I immediately thought of when we were going through the pictures from that evening and saw that first one: 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book review: Yesterday's Flame by Livia J. Washburn


When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell's duties propelled her from San Francisco 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger--and a present of certain love--no matter how short lived it may be...

My review:

With a tiny dash of mystical, Livia Washburn delivers an engrossing story filled with history and charm.

To keep herself safe from a fire disaster, Annabel seeks out refuge in a cave. However, her safe harbor turns out to be a time portal that whisks her back in time to 1906. It was a blast watching her acclimate to her surroundings - from the way she talked to how she dressed, to how women were perceived and how she should behave. Annabel quickly figured out how to toe the line between who she was as a woman, and who she needed to be to not get tossed in the asylum! She had no problem with pushing boundaries and proving herself, even to the delight and frustration of the man who caught her attention.

Cole Brady is a mix of refinement and down-to-earth gentleman. Balancing both the burden of a wealthy business and the calling of a fireman, finding Annabel at her most vulnerable allowed him to be exactly what she needed. He had his hands full with her and knew from the first moment he saw her, she was someone special to him - he just didn't know what to do with her all the time, as she wasn't like any other woman he ever encountered - and became a challenge he enjoyed.

I loved watching history come to life around the characters, and thus myself. In fact, I ended up googling more pictures and articles just to keep learning more. :)

Mix in a wonderful setting of early 1900s San Francisco city with real life history, a touch of suspense, and a lot of charm, you'll enjoy Yesterday's Flame.

Purchase Links:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Countdown to Kaye Spencer's Favorite Rodeo Song – Part 1 of 4 #rodeo #rodeosongs #prairierosepubs

July 4, 2019 marked the 150th anniversary of a rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado. Deer Trail is proud to claim the honor of being “world’s first rodeo. In fact, The Handbook of Texas Online states: “One of the earliest 'bronco-busting contests' on record was held on July 4, 1869, in Deer Trail, Colorado Territory.*

Thinking about the Deer Trail rodeo took me back through the years, and I consequently spent a good deal of time reminiscing about my own rodeo years.

During my teenage years and into my early twenties, my best friend was part of a family of small-circuit rodeo-ers. This family and my parents were friends during their school years, so rodeo was part of our collective entertainment. Although, my dad didn’t ride saddle broncs much past his early twenties, my family rarely missed attending a rodeo that was within a day’s drive from home.

From about age 14 through 21, I didn’t miss attending these three rodeos:

*The Brush Rodeo in Brush, Colorado, which is ten miles from where I grew up in Fort Morgan. The Brush rodeo began in 1954. I was the Brush rodeo queen when I was 16. The Brush Rodeo Facebook page is HERE

If I locate a picture of me as a Brush Rodeo queen, I’ll include it in a later post.

*The Deer Trail Rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado, which is about 70 miles straight south of Fort Morgan. The Deer Trail Rodeo Facebook Page is HERE. 

Colorado Map - Deer Trail and Fort Morgan marked in red and blue respectively**

 *Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which is 100 miles from Fort Morgan. Website Here

Quick anecdote: When I was the Brush Rodeo Queen, I participated in the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade and in the rodeo arena parade. At that time, visiting queens weren’t allowed to bring their own horses, so horses were supplied by rodeo cowboys.

Fast forward thirty-ish years to my job as Director of Exceptional Student Services for 13 school districts…

One evening, and in the midst of deep conversation in the hotel’s bar at an educational conference, one of the school superintendents I worked with and I discovered he was the cowboy who loaned me his horse for those parades all those years ago. (Yes, I know, TMI.)

Back to the title of this article and rodeo songs.

In the course of my reminiscing, rodeo songs naturally cropped up, and I spent a few minutes… okay… hours… on YouTube searching for, and listening to, rodeo songs. Consequently, I decided to write this four part article leading up to my favorite rodeo song. I’ve chosen my seven favorite rodeo songs, which I will share in similarly themed pairs, until the last post, which will focus on my favorite rodeo song.

Now for Numbers 6 and 7…

While one of these songs isn’t technically a rodeo song in that it doesn’t take place inside a rodeo arena, bronc riding is a rodeo event and that’s good enough for me. Pay attention to the similar theme in these two songs. In fact, the lyrics are quite similar.

Number 7
Bad Brahma Bull - Chris LeDoux

Number 6
Strawberry Roan - Marty Robbins

What are your favorite rodeo songs?

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

You can find Kaye here:

Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest


** “Large Detailed Roads and Highways Map of Colorado State with All Cities: Colorado State: USA: Maps of the USA: Maps Collection of the United States of America.” Maps of All States, Regions and Cities of the United States of America | Maps of the USA,

*Handbook of Texas Online, Sylvia Gann Mahoney, "RODEOS," accessed September 10, 2019, 

Bull and Rodeo Clown images: - author purchased license
Bronc image: - photographer beat0092