Rats and… not rats

June 21, 2015

I’ll start with the not rats, in fact the good. Regan Walker, who comments here occasionally, has a great romance blog and is today featuring Dancing on Coals. Her review is very complimentary, and she has included Dancing on her list of favorite Western Historicals in the past. As I’ve mentioned here before, Regan also writes romance, although not Westerns. She has written Regencies, a Medieval, and most recently a romance set in the pre-Regency Georgian period. Thanks, Regan.

As for the rats, Without Words missed being a finalist for the RONE award by either one vote (depending on how they handle ties) or 2. It’s no one’s fault but my own for not swinging a wider loop on getting votes, and in the future I need to make up my mind either to dive into the whole process indelicately and whole-heartedly or not bother at all, since missing by that margin made me cranky.

~ Ellen


April 24, 2015

I received an email yesterday from McD. After seeing our discussion about recommendations in the comments to my last post, she is sharing her list of authors currently writing historical westerns. (I happen to know that McD is a thorough reviewer and has in fact reviewed for a couple of popular book blogs.) Four of the authors she mentions are new to me, and I’m going to give them a try. So, here it is:

Jo Goodman
Carla Kelly
Kaki Warner
Holly Bush
Rosanne Bittner
Lori Austin
Linda Broday

All of these authors usually deliver 3.5-4 star reads, some higher, particularly JG.

Rosanne Bittner has a new book coming out – Do Not Forsake Me – in July. It’s book #2 in the Outlaw Hearts series. The first book, written over 20 years ago, is due to be re-issued in June by Sourcebooks. It’s a 500 page sweeping saga, and pretty good – 4 stars.

Desiree Banks
The Gallows’ Bounty
The Sheriff’s Widow

J.R. Biery
The Milch Bride
From Darkness to Glory
(there’s a third book in this series I’ve not yet read)

An older series that’s been re-issued – 4 stars overall – which I recently re-read and enjoyed:

Maureen McKade
A Reason to Live (the best of the series imo)
A Reason to Believe
A Reason to Sin

I hope those of you looking for recommendations find some new-to-you books and authors to try in that list.


RONE again

April 15, 2015

InD’tale just sent an email today telling me Without Words is eligible for their RONE award, and the voting for finalists in the American Historical category is from April 13-19th. Why I only got the email today I can’t say as I see on the Amazon MOA Western Romance thread others did get the notice on the 13th or earlier, but here I am asking for your help and feeling a little behind the curve.

I’d appreciate any votes any of you can give for Without Words in its category. Yes, you have to register at the InD’tale site, but I registered back when Beautiful Bad Man was in this position, and they only send me one email a month when their magazine comes out and really don’t bug you at all.

Here’s the link they gave me (you have to be logged in to see the nominees).

For those of you who are new to the site, this isn’t an award given based only on reader votes. Books that received a 4-star or better review on the InD’tale site are initially eligible. That list is narrowed down by reader votes, and then the finalists are actually read and scored by judges selected by InD’tale.

This year Words has a much tougher row to hoe to get to the finalist stage than Bad Man did in 2012 because there are many more candidates at this stage. I forgot to count, but there must be at least 15 that will be narrowed down to 5.

Thanks for your help.


A Rant

March 13, 2015

After all the hullabaloo my opinion of rape romances caused on the Amazon Romance forum years ago, I swore I’d never let loose with a particularly contrary and passionate opinion in public again, but here I am tonight. Maybe because it’s late and I’m tired, more probably because four years of that much self-control is all I’m good for, but I just slammed my Kindle shut on another romance at the 60% mark and will be deleting it shortly, and I need to rant somewhere, so cyberspace is it.

Years ago I read a poem that really struck me (and if any of you recognize it and can give me the title or author, I’d love to read it again and see how much my memory has distorted it). What I recall is that star-crossed lovers make a suicide pact. She carries through, and he doesn’t. Since suicide is such a great sin, she ends up in hell, and her reaction as I remember it is to tell the Devil, “I’ve been tricked. I’ve been lied to. I will not stay.” And she doesn’t.

That’s my kind of heroine. I hope once she returned from hell, she beat the bejesus out of her former lover, but I don’t think the poem covered that part.

So this romance I was reading tonight is the third one I’ve started where the heroine is tricked into marriage by the “hero.” Not oops we’ve been caught in a compromising position and have to marry and have to make the best of it, but a deliberate set-her-up so she has to marry him because what he wants is so damn important that lying, cheating, and leaving someone no options is perfectly acceptable. After all he’s handsome and good in bed. Heck, that makes it romantic, right?

So they get married. She has a temper tantrum about being lied to and cheated out of the future she wanted. And after a few hours or few days of that she realizes she can’t resist how gorgeous he is (wasn’t Ted Bundy pretty good looking?), and after all he meant well (one of my mother’s favorite sayings was that one about the road to hell being paved with good intentions), and she forgives him. (Admittedly I quit the last 2 of these stories before we got to forgiving the creep part, but I know that’s what happened as well as if I’d read every word twice.)

None of the kernels for future stories that I have worked out deals with this kind of story, but if I ever get the time I’m going to write one. In mine, the heroine is going to have her pitiful little temper tantrum and only pretend to get over it. If he’s already tricked her into marriage, she’ll find a way to make herself a widow without consequences, and if she’s only compromised so that she supposedly has to marry him, she’ll act docile until they get to the church and then make a scene to end all scenes. After that she’ll take off on her own in spite of it being “impossible” for a female, make her own way, and find a decent guy. There may be an epilog where she encounters the s.o.b. again long enough for him to realize she’s the one who bankrupted him, caused him to be jailed and convicted of something that will have him in prison until he’s old and gray, or maybe just spit in his eye.

End of rant.

~ Ellen

Probably too late, but…

January 29, 2015

I’ve been among the missing again lately, haven’t I? A bit about one of the chief reasons for that later, but I’ll start with something I’ve procrastinated about posting so long it’s probably too late, although maybe someone can meet the deadline.

I got this email from Lee Brewer at AAR weeks ago, meant to pass it along and obviously never did:

All About Romance’s Annual Reader Poll is now open and we would love for you and your readers to stop by and participate in the fun! Please feel free to vote, post the link on your website or Facebook, twitter or other social media!

Informational blog with link to ballot:  http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=15348

The poll runs through midnight Sunday, January 25th, 2015 [changed, read below].

We hope to be tallying your ballot soon!

Ms. Lee Brewer
AAR Publisher Liaison and Pollster

You notice the deadline is January 25th. However, a recent post on the site now says the deadline has been extended to the 30th, which is to say, tomorrow.

I’m sure part of my slow reaction to the message is that this isn’t a poll I can participate in. Unlike avid reviewers, I just don’t keep good records of what I read. The fact I now keep a list of authors I like and those I won’t be trying again is a major step forward in record-keeping. I relied only on the memory that is now getting faulty for years. So figuring out what I read that was published in 2014 would take a lot of poking around in Amazon’s records and my copies of the books, and from memory, I think you have to vote in 6 categories for your ballot to count.

I’m sorry I didn’t get in gear and pass this information on in a more timely fashion and hope those of you who do keep proper records have already voted or can easily do so by the deadline if it’s the kind of thing you like to do.

Now as to the reason I’ve been missing lately. Here she is:

Her name is Teagan (a good Irish name for a dog of a German breed, but there it is), and of course there’s a story behind her.

As anyone who has been following here for a while knows, I got another puppy, Story, just two years ago. Story is destined to do the obedience, carting, and drafting competitions my beloved Schara excelled at for so long, and I had absolutely no intention of another puppy. I was out of the puppy market, no more, too many dogs, done, not considering it, NOT.

So a good friend calls me up and tells me she is considering another puppy from a litter an excellent breeder who lives right in my town has. Only 4 puppies, 3 girls and 1 boy. My friend’s last puppy was from this breeder, and my friend says she thinks she’s going to take the male. “Why don’t you come to the eval with me,” she says. “I know you like watching that kind of thing.”

Well, I do like watching puppy evaluations (something good breeders here in Colorado all do to aid them in placing puppies properly), and an afternoon spent cuddling puppies and among dog people sounded great, so I went.

My friend wants a top show prospect, and unfortunately the male puppy’s bite makes that a gamble (sometimes if the bite is off in a puppy it will correct itself after the permanent teeth come in but not always). So she backed away.

Another friend was there and absolutely enchanted with one of the girls but unwilling to commit right then. A third show person had come from a bit of a distance but also didn’t commit.

So instead of smiling new owners walking out with their new puppies, which is what usually happens at the end of the evaluation, everyone left and none of those puppies left with them. I couldn’t believe it. One of the girl puppies was so appealing I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a line of people all vying to have her. Before I left, I told the breeder if that girl or the male didn’t get homes soon, I’d be interested. I was sure I’d never have to honor that because they’re lovely puppies, and they’d all have homes in nothing flat.

A week later, the friend who was so taken with one of the other girls called me and said the breeder had contacted her and wanted to know if I was serious about taking a puppy. You see her husband really wanted those puppies in homes, and so far in spite of the interest no one had committed. I couldn’t believe no one had grabbed up that lovely female puppy, but no one had. All four were still available.

I don’t need another dog. Getting another puppy was not smart. Yes, I have an 11-year-old and a 12-year-old, but they’re both healthy and not going to disappear soon (and when I lose Schara I may be unable to function for a year or two). In spite of all that, feeling guilty for not taking the little boy, I hied myself to the breeder’s and grabbed the pick of the litter female.

Teagan. This is one of my favorite pictures. It shows Schara, 11 years old, playing with Teagan, 11 weeks old. I couldn’t believe the old girl would throw aside dignity and play bow to a puppy like that, but she did.

Play Bow
The story has a happy ending because the friend who was enchanted with one of the other girls did take her after much soul searching about the commitment. Another family from north of Denver took the third girl and thinks she’s the cat’s meow. The boy was the last to find a home, but he went to a young lady who feels the same about him, and that means I was able to stop feeling guilty about grabbing Teagan. The fact is I prefer girls, although I really would have taken the boy if things had turned out differently.

I’ve accused the friend who invited me to the eval of running a con on me and getting me over there under false pretenses knowing I’d be vulnerable, but she denies it vigorously. Even so, I’m not going near another available Rottweiler puppy in any setting no matter how innocent the invitation sounds.

One of the many things I forgot as I plunged off the puppy-acquisition cliff was my vow never to get another puppy in winter. Housebreaking means getting that puppy out every hour on the hour, which in winter means bundling up to the eyebrows, pulling on heavy boots, clomping outside, and waiting on a puppy who is often in no hurry to perform. It means getting up in the middle of the night and doing all that when the puppy starts whining in her crate, even if it’s below zero outside.

On the plus side, I now have the potential of my very own Rottweiler driving team, which will be a lot easier than when I worked Schara with my friend’s male for driving and we had to meet in a parking lot twice a week to train (the same con artist friend by the way).


Yee Haw!! And decisions, decisions….

November 21, 2014

All About Romance posted a Desert Isle Keeper review for Without Words today, and there have been some very complimentary comments in their forum threads, some I suspect by followers here, although I can’t always tell when you use different screen names :-). The book has had a super launch, with nice review averages on Amazon and Goodreads and great reviews on other blog sites too, such as Romantic Historical Reviews. The Maldivian Book Reviewer’s glowing review had me blushing.

Once again, thanks all, for the purchases and borrows, for the reviews, for the word of mouth recommendations.

Now as to that decisions thing…. Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program has changed the indie landscape in the last months. I put Rachel’s Eyes into the program early on just because I had never published it through major distributors other than Amazon, and it was easy to do as an experiment. (To be in the KU program, a book has to be exclusive to Amazon.) To my surprise, that four-year-old, too-short short story started selling better than it has since it was new and in addition has had as many borrows as sales ever since it’s been in KU.

That made me go hmm, but what made me put Without Words in KU was my own reaction to the program as a reader. I’ve been trying all sorts of books I never would have tried if it meant searching out and buying some unknown indie author. Yes, I always downloaded samples and read them before trying a new author, but I found samples often fooled me in that a book would fall apart long after that first 10%. Downloading the whole book and either continuing to read or zapping it without consequence seems so superior.

The big negative of the KU program, at least in my opinion, is that the book has to be exclusive to Amazon, making it more difficult for non-Kindle readers. I hate cutting off anyone with a Nook or Kobo, but I really have very few non-Amazon sales and the problem seems to be less every day with Kindle apps for every device under the sun floating around. The really determined could download the Kindle version and convert to epub for their Nook or Kobo, but I realize that’s the techie solution.

The pluses to the KU program as I see them are: (a) Rachels’ Eyes was revitalized by KU; (b) Words has had the best first two months of any of my books since Sing My Name considering sales alone, and it has had as many borrows as sales; (c) as a reader, KU is making me more adventuresome in trying books by other indies.

So I have pulled Sing My Name from distribution to sellers other than Amazon and am going to try it in the KU program and see what happens. Depending on what happens with Sing, I’m going to think about each of the other older books one by one and try to make reasonable decisions for each.

~ Ellen

Paperback of Words is out

November 8, 2014

The paperback edition of Without Words is out now, and the first time I found it on Amazon, it was already linked to the digital version. When Amazon is speedy, it’s very, very speedy.

However, since my prediction was the paperback would be available a month earlier than it actually is, you can tell I’m not very speedy at all and in fact have good reason not to make predictions.

This is the first book I tried the recently available matte cover option for, and I like it a lot. I’m going to continue with the glossy covers for the mysteries (assuming I ever get to the plural point with those) and with the matte covers for the romances. A post on some author site dissected the matte/glossy options as to which colors they did best with, but pfft. Unless a proof copy with a matte cover comes to me with a strange look, they’re all going to be matte from now on.

~ Ellen


Happy Halloween and…

October 28, 2014

First, I apologize to those waiting for the paperback of Without Words. After meeting the pre-order deadline, I sort of collapsed, but then I did get in gear and format the paperback. However, when I received the proof, both the cover and interior needed tweaking. That’s done now. As soon as I can get to a wifi connection, they’re ready to upload, and the paperback ought to be released in the next few days.

Second, Happy Halloween. Anyone who follows here knows the chances of me ever writing a woo-woo kind of story that would be great for releasing just before Halloween are south of slim to none. However, I’m sure many of you enjoy paranormals, and Keta Diablo, who like me posts in the Western Romance thread of Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forum, has just released a new paranormal Western romance. It’s called Chasing the Dead, is the first in her Bannister Brothers series, and here is more detailed information:


About the Book

The Apache kidnapped me to dispel an evil ghost from their village. If I tell them I don’t possess the same skills my madre did, they’ll cut my throat and feed me to the dogs. Celesta was the best spirit chaser in all of New Mexico before she died.

The most I can hope for is that Emmett, my fiancé, will rescue me. Is he capable of such a thing? Poppy must not have thought so because he sent Deacon Bannister to save me. Deacon…the man who walked away days before our wedding a year ago. The man who still melts my bones after one look.

We’re running for our lives from Uday, the vaporous ghoul tracking us. He wants Sacheen, the beautiful maiden banished from the Apache village who travels with us. The warrior killed her father when Sacheen refused to marry him, and then Sacheen’s brother killed Uday.

The ghost’s powers grow stronger every minute on our journey back to El Vaquero…and so does my love for Deacon.

Madrid Arrende


A shadow hovered near the fires, ducking in between stalks of cacti and other scrub brush. Maddie drew a deep breath and ambled forward with Elan beside her. Amid the dissonant chants and prayers, warriors brandishing spears and shields hollered into the gray mist. Maddie squinted, hoping to catch sight of the ghoul the others couldn’t see. Only powerful shamans and spirit chasers had trained themselves to look upon the face of a dead spirit. A ripple of fear spread through her limbs and shivered down her spine when la fantasma appeared before her.

A mass of black patterns and swirls marred his enraged face. His eyes were hollow and black until a den of serpents slithered from the sockets–a deception the spirit had learned in his brief time in the underworld.

Maddie swallowed hard and sneaked a glance at Elan. Standing tall and looking formidable, she had to admire the man’s courage. “It is you he seeks to destroy, Elan, to forge a path to Sacheen. I will go forth on my own now.”

Elan shook his head, his expression one of disbelief. “Why would you put yourself in such danger? We wait and see what the dead man will do.”

“No. It is what he wants, for all in the village to fear him. Only then does his true power unfold. I will meet his challenge; let him know I am here to banish him back to the dead.” “Although I cannot”, she whispered under her breath.

The ghost twisted and turned, retreating back from the fire, only to appear seconds later at another location in camp. He screamed and howled, the otherworldly sounds rumbling through the village like a murderous dust storm.

Maddie shrugged aside Elan’s grip on her elbow and walked forward. “Madre, be with me,” she said to the ground. The moon had not shown its face this night but a smattering of a million stars gave enough light for Maddie to focus on the grim outline of the wretch. “Lift up your eyes dead spirit and hear my words.”

An inhuman screech sent a blast of wind in her direction. It lashed her face and whipped her long hair into a frenzy.

“You are small and weak. I do not fear you!” she screamed, bewildered by the words spewing from her mouth. “The wolf has sung your passing and the bear has grumbled low. Sing your death song and return to the underworld.”

The wailing chants of the shamans echoed behind her.

Ignoring her warning, Elan suddenly appeared beside her, only to be struck to the ground when the ghoul unleashed a stream of lightning spikes from the sky. Elan moaned, clutched his broken arm and attempted to rise.

“Stay down!” Maddie ground out between clenched teeth.

Her mother’s voice rode the crest of her fear. Be strong, Madrid, try again.

Her knees shook and her spine curled, but she took another step forward. “Your breath has moved to another world. You must remain with it. Do you hear me, dead spirit? You are no longer welcome here. Your relatives have said farewell and so must you, never to return.”

A refrain from the Apache against her back bolstered her courage—a roar of cheers and the synchronized trampling of moccasins beating the ground.

Torrents of rain fell from the sky, pounding Maddie into the earth beneath her feet. Wet dirt spiraled up her nose and debilitating pain wracked her body. A hand clamped over her arm. When Maddie realized it belonged to Elan, a sigh of relief mingled with the cold blast of air surrounding them. Sacheen’s brother pulled her against his wet body and crawled toward camp, dragging her with him.

A triumphant scream from the ghost rent the air, pitching the warriors into a cowering retreat. The cold, gray dawn swept over camp. Shivering with despair, Maddie turned to Elan. “His power is great.”

Out of breath and still clutching his arm, he nodded.

“Maddie raised a fist to the sky. “We have failed this night, dead spirit, but we will not the next time we meet.”

Connect with Keta Diablo:

Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

 Buy Chasing the Dead




Thanks, Everyone

October 3, 2014

Thanks, everyone, for all the pre-order, regular sales, and borrowing support. So far, Without Words is having a very successful launch.

When you all post about how much you’re looking forward to a new book, it makes me nervous. It’s so easy for something highly anticipated to disappoint. That makes me extra appreciative of all the comments here, emails, and reviews on Amazon and places like Goodreads saying you did enjoy Bret and Hassie’s story.

Oh, and Happy belated Birthday mesadallas!




September 15, 2014

So I uploaded Without Words to Amazon for pre-order a few hours ago, and it already has a product page here.

If you pre-order, the book will be delivered to your Kindle or Kindle App on September 30th. There are a few things you should know about that.

First, I set the pre-order price at $2.99. I hope that will give those of you who read all my books, review, spread the word, etc., a small discount, because I intend to raise the price to $4.99 as soon as the book is unlocked from its pre-order status.

Second, the book is in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means after September 30th if you subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited program (and everyone gets one month free) you can borrow the book for free.

The paperback will be out in early October.

I look forward to hearing from everyone as to how you like Bret and Hassie’s story.

~ Ellen