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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Perfect Gift for a Horse-Loving Reader

I'm about to save your skin with this gift idea.

Do you have an book-loving reader on your list who also loves horses? 

Connie Johnson Hambley's award-winning trilogy is on sale at Amazon.
Buy the whole trilogy for under $20 on Kindle

You can buy all three books for under $20 TOTAL!

Horse Nation's review is here. Yeah. The reviewer LOVES this trilogy. 

Not only was I riveted and moved by the ending, but I credit book three, The Wake, for bringing me back to the incredible adventure that is reading a genuinely good book.
- Lorraine Jackson, Horse Nation Book Review

Go ahead, buy a last minute gift, save your skin, and reap appreciation from your reader. Oh, and buy a set for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

You can thank me later. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2017


If you love horses, you'll love getting to know the books written by Carly Kade. Last week, I posted Part One of Carly's interview. Today, Carly talks more about her inspiration and writing life. If you're an aspiring author, you'll love the insights Carly provides in this second part of her interview.
Read on!
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I don’t always know where my characters are going to take me. I let them lead and write their journey down as it comes. I don’t force a twist or a turn. My character development just comes naturally when I tap into that special zone and let my heart (and the characters) guide the writing. 
In the Reins began with the poem about McKennon Kelly, then I wrote the ending of the book first, and from there I wrote chapter by chapter in order. Writing Cowboy Away was SO different. I let the book lead me, and it had me jumping all over the place! One day I would be working on page 14 and then the next I’d be on page 101. The book came to me in pieces because every member of the Green Briar bunch had a story to share.
Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
I think one similarity between the leading lady of In The Reins and me is our unabashed love for horses. There’s no place I’d rather be than spending time with my horse. Just like Devon, I’m happiest when I am in the saddle.

As I wrote Devon’s story, a big difference between us unfolded as her character became far more risky in the saddle (and in love) than I think myself to be. Like it says in Devon’s intro video from my “Meet the Characters” series, she is a little bit of a train wreck. Devon talks to herself in her mind a
lot. I try to go about my day as clear-minded and present as possible. It isn’t always easy, but thanks to meditation I definitely have a quieter mind than Devon does!  

I can relate to all the things that make up Devon Brooke (the good and the bad) because those things are inherently female. Devon Brooke represents all the mixed emotions that make up a woman; strength, independence, uncertainty, desire to find love, and that little bit of neurosis I think a woman can harbor when her fantasies don’t exactly match up with reality. Devon’s judgment certainly becomes impaired over a cute guy in cowboy boots!  

Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
I have designed a plan for my writing life. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and start my day by writing before I go to my corporate job. At the end of the week, my husband reads back to me the chapters I’ve written. The routine works. I finished two books this way, and I’m already writing the third.

It is always a challenge balancing a corporate life with a creative one, but I found writing Cowboy Away a little easier because I had already written a book. I think getting the first book written is always the toughest because your mind can play tricks on you.
The secret was sticking to the morning writing routine that I established while writing In the Reins. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helped move the sequel forward. I am not a morning person, but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. 
Also, I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach. It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.
Reflecting on the process today, it feels as if In the Reins and Cowboy Away just flowed out of me and was something I had to do. That’s the way, I feel about having a horse in my life, too. It’s just something I have to do. Writing novels about horses and riding them are both good for my creative soul. 

Where is your favorite place to write?
In my home office and often after I ride. I usually have to scurry to capture the words on the only thing I can find when inspiration suddenly hits me ... torn out insides of my horse's feedbags! I scribble down my thoughts while perched on hay bales listening to the sounds of the horses rustling in their stalls.
How did you break into publishing?
In recent years, the self-publishing industry has exploded and new tools for self-publishing have removed barriers for authors who prefer to go it alone — I am one of them. Equestrian fiction authors are often told that their books (with an equine twist) are too niched. I don't agree. 

My goal was to write a story with an honest depiction of the human-horse bond while at the same time giving readers the experience of falling in love with the characters of my book. After some extensive research, I decided to self-publish my first novel and skip the conversation about my book being too specialized to market. 

As a self-published author, I get a say ... I hire the editors and proofreaders who work on my novels. I work with the designers of my book covers. I conduct my own video shoots. I arrange events. I handle my own marketing via various author pages, my website and my social media channels.  I determine the price and positioning of my books. I appreciate that self-publishing allows me freedom with my creativity ... I especially like that can write at my own pace. 

What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
I released In The Reins in December of 2015. My background in marketing, events, social media, brand and public relations gave me a foundation for doing the launch of the book myself. 

I had so much fun promoting it. I used a lot of video. First, I released a short video teaser to indicate the book was coming soon. Then, I made a series of “Meet the Character” video shorts to introduce each one to future readers and then I released the full-length book trailer just before the book was released. I had a lot of fun making a holiday themed book trailer since I released the book just before the holidays.


Monday, December 18, 2017

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Written

On November 24, I wrote a post about the hard knowledge that the coming holidays would be my Dad's last. I thought we'd have Christmas. He had other ideas and passed away six days later. As hard as it is, we are relieved he didn't suffer pain nor the indignities the aging and ailing often endure. He passed on a Thursday with my mom by his side, in his own bed, very peacefully. His wake was the next Sunday. He was buried on Monday. In less than five days, the ceremonies of life and death exhausted us and left us dazed. 

I'm still coming to grips with the reality of it. My mom asked me to write a Eulogy and to read it at Dad's funeral mass. I'm a writer, so I process my emotions through my fingertips, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever written. I wanted to howl in grief, but, instead, I sat in my parent's breakfast nook off the kitchen and typed silently while family and friends milled about. I'm sharing it here for a lot of reasons. I think my Dad needs to be known. Posting this makes it more real. 

So, on the Sunday after my dad died, I stood in the front my hometown church, straightened my back, and read:

We’re here today to celebrate a life well lived. My dad was a tough old Swede. Or at least, that’s what he’d want you to think. But I think each of us who knew Dad, knew better. Inside that often crusty exterior, was a guy who had his priorities straight, who suffered few fools, and who loved deeply and with a loyalty we can all aspire to.

The love and outpouring of grief our family has seen humbles us, but it would blow him away. He never wanted fuss and bother, or for you to go out of your way for him. He didn’t ask for favors. He lived a simple and morally true life. He was practical, but he was a dreamer, too. He always saw the better vision, the good in the person, or the way around a problem. And he was stubborn. Sometimes that combination worked. Other days, not so much, but he tried.

He loved it when people got along with one another. The town of Pawling will remain a beautiful a town for generations because the dreamer in him saw what could be, and then, in his affable way, brought the sometimes warring parties to the table and helped whittle down their resolve into his vision. They might have thought it was their idea to worry about open space or mixed use or density, but anyone who knew Dad, knew better.

My mom's faith is carrying her through this difficult time. A devout Catholic her entire life, recent years found her redoubling her prayers for her eternal togetherness with my dad. Dad was a Congregationalist and precedent states he could not be buried next to my mom in the Catholic cemetery. Her rosary beads are rubbed down to the nub. She knew what she was up against.

Oh, did I mention Dad was stubborn? Kent Johnson didn’t do anything he didn’t want to do. Growing up with him, Sunday services and Sunday school were for the kids, and trips to confession were done with our grandparents, Daniel and Elizabeth Heinchon. Holy communions and confirmations were propelled by a very proud mother. But Dad? He was golfing.

One Easter Sunday after mass where we were all milling about greeting one another on a beautiful day, Father Duff came up to my parents and greeted my mom warmly, then looked at the church, dramatically looking from the steeple to foundation and back up to the steeple. Then, he shook Dad’s hand with a sigh of relief and said, “Miracles happen. The church is still standing.”

So, today is more than Dad’s funeral. Today marks the first time he’s in church as a Catholic and the first time mass is being offered for Kent as a Catholic. Just a few months ago, Dad converted from Congregationalist to Catholic to fulfill his wish of being buried as a Catholic. 

Through this simple act, he showed a love for his wife that will truly be eternal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I love getting inside an author's head. What is his or her creative process? What was the inspiration behind their work? How do they reach readers?
I think you'll find this interview with Carly Kade interesting and informative. Carly and I share a bit of turf. We write books that feature equestrians and horses. We also share winning Best Fiction awards at the EQUUS Film Festival! We met at last year's festival and I've been impressed with her marketing prowess, vision, and "get it done" manner.  I asked Carly a few questions and she had a lot to say and today's post is part one of a two-part interview. Today's post focuses on inspiration and drive. Part two will focus on craft and writing process.
Read on!
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
It isn't always easy being a self-published author! There's a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway. I am responsible for running my own business and that includes so many different facets from time management (that's right actually finding the time to write!) to deadlines to running promotions to generating publicity to website development to creating marketing materials to attending events to running social media channels to writing a blog and so much more.

Sometimes my head feels like it might actually spin!

​In addition to all that goes along with owning my own business, I have a "real" job, a patient spouse waiting to spend time with me, two dogs and a horse always looking for my love. I do what it takes to fit in my much needed barn time. In the saddle is where I get to finally hit refresh and have some me moments (although it feels as if it is never for as long as I'd like). Somehow though, I always make everything work and feel so fortunate to be able to have the life that I do. I am really proud of the creative life I'm inventing for myself so I think being a writer is a gift!  

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The biggest challenge is finding the time. 
When it comes to writing, my favorite Stephen King quote is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I often worry I won’t have anything to write, but then I sit and make the time and the story magically starts writing itself through me.

Now, I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing IN THE REINS?  What would you do differently the next time?

My first book has been a terrific opportunity to learn and grow as an author. I did have the book professionally proof-read and edited prior to its release but ended up having to revise my manuscript after it was published to correct some editorial issues. It was very important to me that I improve the experience for future readers. This definitely was not ideal and not what I would have liked because some readers already had copies but it was a great learning lesson.  And, it won't happen again.

My advice (especially for self-published authors) is to edit, edit (then edit some more!) even after editing, look into having the book copyedited. Use beta-readers that you trust but who will give you honest feedback. It may prolong your release date but it is so worth it to know you put the very best version of your book into the hands of your readers.

With great power comes great responsibility. Don't learn this lesson the hard way like I did! Self-published authors often get a bum rap for not being diligent during the editing process. Now, that we have the opportunity and freedom (Hallelujah!) to self-publish our own work it is up to us to make sure it is up to snuff when we hit that publish button. Make the investment to ensure your work is at its very best before you share it with the world.

What do your fans mean to you?
My books are definitely written with horse lovers in mind (no matter which discipline they ride). I have found that my readers are just like me — horse crazy, book crazy, and crazy for handsome cowboys. 

When I learned that In The Reins had broken into the Amazon top 100 (then the top 25 then the top 5), my heart grew a thousand times its size because I knew it meant that my writing was resonating with my readers.

They are the audience I wanted to identify with and write for. They're bookworms, horse lovers, cowgirls, and connoisseurs of cute cowboys! I couldn’t have done it without my readers. I am so grateful for their readership because they helped the first book in my horse book series earn the esteemed Best Western Fiction literary award at the EQUUS Film Festival. My readers have helped my dreams come true. They mean so very much to me.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The In the Reins series is my creative journey. It just calls me forward so I keep following it. I’ve found that when something seems scary it’s usually the path I need to take. One of my favorite questions is “What do you plan to do with your ONE wild and precious life?” I think the answer to that question is different for each of us but chasing a dream … whatever the dream is … is likely the next step after answering it and is so rewarding.

My dream is to keep writing stories that make people feel. I want to write stories that give people escape. I want to write stories that people don’t want to put down. I want to get lost in my imagination and bring stories to life for others.

Oh, and you gotta tell us about horses!
I will own horses until I take my last breath. I love them that much. Horses give me peace. There is nothing more peaceful to me than the quiet bond between a woman and her horse.  I am happiest when I am in the saddle. The inspiration for my writing comes from time spent at the barn and riding my Paint. 

How did you come up with the idea for IN THE REINS?
I’ve always enjoyed creative writing, but I never set out to be an author. It just kind of happened when cowboy/horse trainer McKennon Kelly showed up as a poem that ended up as the intro to the book! Then this story begged me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary! You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.

One day, I asked my husband if he would read my manuscript to see if what I had written had any merit. One thing to know about my husband is that the only book series he’s ever read was the Hunger Games on our honeymoon. As he read my story back to me, two things happened — I sat there and thought to myself “who wrote this” and “where was I while I was writing it” because it sounded pretty good, and then I noticed that my husband was laughing, smiling and engaging with my words. He put the manuscript down in his lap and said to me, “This is really good. You have to keep going.”  So, I did.


Take a tour of Carly's website or her YouTube channel and you’ll notice her horse, Sissy, appears in the promotional videos for In The Reins as the lead horse character, Faith. Carly does all the marketing for the book herself so it's fun to see her own horse in film's the footage!

Friday, December 1, 2017


I could write an ode to the power of social media with the story of how Sorchia and I first connected, but the details are universal. One clever post led to a few more clicks and here we are! Sorchia's blog sparked my interest and I was happy to be her guest on her theme of paranormal. (Yes, my books have a thread of paranormal running through them. Have you ever been to Ireland? To deny that other dimension is impossible.) I was also intrigued with her take on women as authors and as main characters and asked her to give her thoughts on Friday Features' prompt on Strong Women. 

Read on. You'll be glad you did. -cjh

Not One—But Too Many To Count by Sorchia DuBois

When I was trying to pick a woman for this post, I just couldn’t think of a single woman who had inspired me.

Not one—but too many to count.

So many women have encouraged, supported, or inspired me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of them in person, but most are online acquaintances. Some are family or close friends. Some are women I’ve only read about—women whose stories made their way even to my middle America town. The first biography I ever read was of Marie Curie and that was an eye-opener. In my small town, women didn’t do the sorts of things she did.

We don’t all agree on every issue. We don’t all go at life in the same way. We are as deliciously diverse as the rest of the Universe. But one thing we need to be absolutely unified on is support for each other. I believe most women are supportive of other women despite those few who were probably mean girls in junior high and never evolved beyond that.

In the end, it’s going to take all of us to make a difference. It’s all of our voices combined that will be heard over the very loud clamor of tradition, culture, religion.

The sad truth is women are still being terrorized, tortured, held prisoner, killed for the simple pre-existing condition of being born female. Less dramatic, but just as life altering, some women are in emotionally abusive relationships, underpaid, or unable to achieve their potentials because of their gender. Though a patriarchal culture is easy to blame, some of us are complicit by our tacit acceptance, our silence, our apathy.

So I want to devote this post to shouting the praises of a few strong women I know. These are only five of the many dynamic ladies who’ve made my 2017 brighter and who are sources of inspiration and encouragement. There are so many more! And because I’ve been concentrating on writing this year, these ladies are also of the authorial bent.

Casi MacLain writes romance and suspense with a bit of magic. She’s a tireless supporter of fellow authors, yet she also releases a book or two or her own every year. Check out her Amazon author page at or her website at .

Nicole Tillman is a prolific young writer with a fulltime family. She’s active in her community and as Mom to a couple of the cutest kids you will ever see. I’m constantly amazed by her ability to juggle those things and still have published over 20 books. Find her Amazon page and enjoy the covers and content of her novels.

Velda Brotherton has written over 30 books including western romances, historical romance, and her steamy Twist of Poe mysteries. She does workshops and imparts wisdom and joy wherever she goes. Find her Amazon page at  and peruse her fantastic array of titillating tales.

Laura Strickland writes historical romance and her award-winning Buffalo Steampunk Series. She’s published around 25 books filled with strong women, humor, and damn good writing. Find her at Amazon and take a look at the wonderful array of stories she’s released.

K.D. McCrite writes under the pen names Kathaleen Burr, Ava Norwood, and Sidney Archer. She’s known for her Confessions of April Grace series for middle graders and her cozy mysteries via Annie’s Attic, but she delves into the darker side of the human condition from time to time. KD supports new writers and is a constant and abiding positive voice. Find out more at or go to Goodreads to find info on all of her personas and books.

Do you know women who write or paint or run a local business? If you can comfortably share their names, their stories, and maybe a FaceBook or Twitter connection for their businesses, please leave in comments.

Look around your community. Find those gals who run businesses or provide services and put your money where your mouth—and your heart––is. Frequent their establishments, sing their praises, and tell them how important they are.

We’ve come a long way, baby—but current events show we’ve not come far enough.

Sorchia Dubois Bio

Award-winning author Sorchia Dubois lives in the piney forest of the Missouri Ozarks with seven cats, two fish, one dog, and one husband. She enjoys a wee splash of single-malt Scotch from time to time and she spends a number of hours each day tapping out paranormal romance, Gothic murder, and Scottish thrillers.

A proud member of the Ross clan, Sorchia incorporates all things Celtic (especially Scottish) into her works. She can often be found at Scottish festivals watching kilted men toss large objects for no apparent reason.

Her stories blend legends, magic, mystery, romance, and adventure into enchanted Celtic knots. Halloween is her favorite time of year (she starts decorating in August and doesn’t take it down until February) and her characters tend to be mouthy, stubborn, and a bit foolhardy. Nothing makes her happier than long conversations in the evening, trips to interesting places, and writing until the wee hours of the morning. Well, chocolate cake makes her pretty happy, too.

And Contact Links:

Sorchia’s latest book, Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones, is the first in a Gothic romance trilogy.

Granny’s dying, but Zoraida can save her with a magic crystal of smoky quartz. Too bad the crystal is in Scotland––in a haunted castle––guarded by mind-reading, psychopathic sorcerers.

Getting inside Castle Logan is easy. Getting out––not so much. Before she can snatch the stone, Zoraida stumbles into a family feud, uncovers a wicked ancient curse, and finds herself ensorcelled by not one but two handsome Scottish witches. Up to their necks in family intrigue and smack-dab in the middle of a simmering clan war, Zoraida and her best friend Zhu discover Granny hasn’t told them everything.

Not by a long shot.

·     Barnes and Noble:
·     KOBO:
·     Wild Rose Press:  (e-books are 40% off through Cyber-Monday)

The second book, Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen, will be released Winter 2018.