Thursday, March 28, 2024

Guest Author Post

This week we have a guest blog, in Q & A form, from multi-genre author Karen Hulene Bartell:

"What inspired you to begin writing?"

IMHO, reading is the inspiration for and entry into writing.

Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually--sometimes monthly--I found my earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became my portable pals. Ghost stories kept me up at night--reading feverishly. Novels offered an imaginative escape, and the paranormal was my passion.

An only child, I began writing my first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating my own happy endings…However, I got four pages into my first “book” and realized I had to do a lot of living before I could finish it!

So here I am all these decades later, still creating my own happy endings…

"What genres do you work in?"

More often than not, I write paranormal romances, but I also write political-suspense thrillers and frontier romance.

"Do you outline, “wing it,” or something in between?"

Mostly, I “wing it.” Occasionally at the end of a day, I’ll make a brief outline of the action I want to write about the following day, but overall, I’m a “pantser.”

"What is your latest or next-forthcoming book?"

Actually, I have two books coming out this spring. Kissing Kin was released March 13, and Fox Tale will be released April 8.

Kissing Kin Overview:

Maeve Jackson is starting over after a broken engagement—and mustering out of the Army. No job and no prospects, she spins out on black ice and totals her car.

When struggling vintner Luke Kaylor stops to help, they discover they’re distantly related. On a shoestring budget to convert his vineyard into a winery, he makes her a deal: prune grapevines in exchange for room and board.

But forgotten diaries and a haunted cabin kickstart a five-generational mystery with ancestors that have bones to pick. As carnal urges propel them into each other’s arms, they wonder: Is their attraction physical…or metaphysical?

Fox Tale Overview:

Heights terrify Ava. When a stranger saves her from plunging down a mountain, he diverts her fears with tales of Japanese kitsune—shapeshifting foxes—and she begins a journey into the supernatural.

She’s attracted to Chase, both physically and metaphysically, yet primal instincts urge caution when shadows suggest more than meets the eye.

She’s torn between Chase and Rafe, her ex, when a chance reunion reignites their passion, but she struggles to overcome two years of bitter resentment. Did Rafe jilt her, or were they pawns of a larger conspiracy? Are the ancient legends true of kitsunes twisting time and events?

"What kinds of research do you do for your Western novels?"

I enjoy researching all my novels. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the parts I like best about writing, but the research for Kissing Kin, Book II of the Trans-Pecos series, was especially complex--as well as physically demanding and a whole lot of fun!

Why do I describe Kissing Kin’s research as complex?

A big reason is that the manuscript underwent several iterations before being published. The first version was a story about two generations linked by Covid and (via journals) the Spanish Flu of 1918. However, publishers passed on it, saying readers were sick of pandemics.

Because the second version would have been part of a series set in Colorado, I changed the location, names, and family relationships. I also adapted the story to fit the series’ outline and removed the flu, but that version didn’t fly, either. My third attempt is the version being released March 13th, which required further revisions and, occasionally, restorations. Try, try, and try again…

Greed and a checkered family history shaped the property lines for Kissing Kin, where some of the characters swindled the land from its rightful owners. This aspect led me into a hornet’s nest of legal research: warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, squatters rights, and a process called adverse possession. Both Texas and Colorado are ‘notice’ states, which means that recording documents legally notify the public of property transfers. But the state laws differ, and I had to research both sets of laws, rewriting the second version with Coloradan laws, and then redrafting the third version, while reverting to the Texan laws.

Karen’s “legal” advice 101: Warranty deeds are better than quitclaim deeds, but recorded warranty deeds are rock solid--unless squatters rights and a process called adverse possession come into play. Then you have a legal fight on your hands--as well as a thickening plot…

Kissing Kin is mainly set in a vineyard. As vintners, farmers, and ranchers know, nature can be cruel. Pierce’s Disease attacks grapevines from Florida to California, where insects called sharpshooter leafhoppers spread the bacteria. I’d never heard of Pierce’s Disease. I have no background in vineyards, and I have a brown thumb. Plants would rather die than live with me. Because of my total lack of knowledge, I had to research the disease, its carriers, and the way to control it.

I learned a new, nicotine-based pesticide eradicates the leafhoppers. I also learned from my grandmother’s hand-printed recipe book, that she treated chicken lice in the 1930s by painting their roost perches with nicotine-sulfate. Apparently, nothing’s new under the sun.

PTSD was another new area of exploration. Two of Kissing Kin’s characters suffered from its symptoms, which wreaked havoc on them--as well as their relationships.

However, the most entertaining research included picking and stomping grapes in two central-Texas vineyards. (I love hands-on (and feet-on) study 😉)

Why do I describe Kissing Kin’s research as physically demanding and a whole lot of fun?

After learning how to prune the vines and harvest the grapes, I did a Lucy-and-Ethel grape stomp--which was sloshing good fun! Of course, the best research was the wine tasting that followed the stomping!

"What are you working on now?"

My WIP is Silkworm, a political-suspense thriller set in Taipei, Taiwan, that portrays a US Senator’s daughter caught between two men, two cultures, two political ideologies, and the two Chinas.

A love triangle is the metaphor for Taiwan and China (the two dragons) competing for geopolitical and technological accords with the US. As mainland China seeks to recover the third of its lost provinces–Taiwan–Rachel Moore struggles to escape the triple nightmare of impending war, a marriage of convenience, and an assassination plot against the man she loves. Silkworm weaves their stories with the trilateral events currently erupting in Southeast Asia.

"What advice would you give to aspiring authors?"

I’ve received little writing advice. However, I started life as an actor and received an immense amount of advice for that career.

The best advice I received was to keep at it--in that case, acting, but the same words apply to writing. Keep at it. Don’t quit. Keep honing your craft and, eventually, you’ll succeed.

The worst advice I’ve received was from an editor--translation: a frustrated author—who demanded I indiscriminately follow her redrafting of my manuscript in an attempt to overwrite my style with hers.

However, my advice for writers is to R E A D! Read everything that interests you. Read when you’re bored. Read when you can’t sleep. Read at the beach…in front of the fire…in bed…waiting for doctor appointments…

Then begin reading genres that are similar to the style in which you’d like to write. Analyze what works and what doesn’t. Find common denominators or rules of thumb between the characters or plots. What makes memorable characters? How does the author maintain the story’s fast pace or add to its suspense? Decide specifically what you like about each author’s style.

Next, start writing about what interests you. Express yourself as honestly as possible. Write about what you know, what you’re familiar with—even your childhood. Keep a notebook. Jot down ideas as they come to you!

Finally, start drafting a story that “grabs you.” Push through that first draft to the end, no matter how painful. (There’s a magic wand called rewrite that allows you to complete any half-baked thoughts later.) The point is to finish the first draft. See it through. Only then should you go back and develop your story.

Occasionally, you’ll find that the story--and even the characters—will seize the pen (AKA your imagination) and draft the story for you!

Sometimes, it’s good to take a vacation from your manuscript. When you return to it, you’ll find your thoughts will have gelled and expressing them comes more easily.

Then rewrite. If necessary, rewrite again and again until your story accurately expresses your message.

Finally, polish your prose. Go back and read each line out loud. The ear catches what the eye misses. Refine your words and phrases until they sparkle.

Before you know it, you’ll have found a genre, even--dare I say it?--your style!

How did I start writing? My first published books were cookbooks—now, thanks to Google, recipes appear online in milliseconds. Cookbooks may no longer be your entry into the published world, but I still recommend writing non-fiction before fiction, be it via textbooks or any form of technical writing.

"What is the URL of your website? What about other internet presence?"

Website – Author Website

Connect – Contact

Buy Links –

UNIVERSAL LINK: Universal Link

AMAZON: Amazon

GOODREADS: Goodreads

APPLE: Apple

BARNES & NOBLE: Barnes and Noble

Social Media Links –

Facebook: Facebook

MeWe: MeWe

Twitter: Twitter

Goodreads: Goodreads

Website: Karen Hulene Bartell


Amazon Author Page:Amazon

Instagram: Instagram

BookBub: BookBub

LinkedIn: LinkedIn



  1. Many thanks for letting me guest post today, Margaret!

  2. Thanks for being our guest today, Karen!

  3. I agree, that no matter how many rejects you get, keep sending. You'll find your home.

  4. Ilona, thank you for your confirmation - AND for stopping by!