Saturday, June 28, 2014



Howdy, y'all!

That's Texan for "welcome to my home on the range", web. Yep, I'm Texan to the bone -- which isn't a bad thing. Texans are tough and determined, but we're also downright friendly. Most of us have never met a stranger, and we're always willin' to help out or offer a weary traveler a nice, tall glass of sweet iced tea.

Pardon me for not waving, but as usual I'm glued to my laptop, typing away on one manuscript or another. When I'm not roughhousing with the people in my head, I'm a professional journalist, history buff, animal lover (there's always at least one dog underfoot), and an irredeemable rabble-rouser.


What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Getting up every day is an adventure for me.   :-D   I did take a ride in a hot-air balloon once, which I thought was fairly adventurous for someone who’s afraid of heights.

What adventure would you like to have that you haven’t done yet if money and skill were no problem?
I tend to take adventures as they come. Almost anything—even the mundane or seemingly tedious—can be an adventure, if one approaches it with an open mind, curiosity, and a willingness to learn. Look behind the obvious. Chances are there’s an adventure back there just waiting to happen.

Who are some of your favorite authors?  What commonality do you see in them?
Oh, lord. I enjoy so many different authors with wildly divergent styles, themes, genres, and voices: Zane Grey, Benjamin Capps, Larry McMurtry, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Alexandre Dumas, Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, Noel Coward (playwright), Robert Frost (poet)… Those are just the classics off the top of my head; the list could go on forever. I enjoy and admire a whole slew of contemporary authors, as well.

Commonalities? Hm. If I had to guess, I’d say what fascinates me about their work is the way in which they explored themes and Big Questions about the essential nature of man.

I believe color says something about a person’s personality.  What’s your favorite color?
My favorite color depends on the mood I’m in. I gravitate toward the vivid and generally don’t care much for pastels. In some cases, black and white can be more expressive than any color separated from the spectrum.

If you could have a do-over life, what one thing would you do differently?  What would you do again?
There are many things I’d do again. As for what I’d do differently? I’d have given up the kind of fear that encourages so many of us to live conservatively in order to secure a future: fear of failure, of public ridicule or disapproval, of losing physical treasure. That kind of fear actually produces more regrets than it prevents.  J

What is your writing process from conception to finished MS?
Wait… We’re supposed to have a process? Somebody should have told me this earlier.

Honestly, I think “process” has become one of those buzzwords that obscures the joy of doing something one loves. Writing is an adventure. It can be messy, frustrating, shocking, frightening, and a whole host of other negative descriptors. It also can be joyous, mysterious, and liberating. Why try to boil creativity down into something as limiting as “process”?

Each of us attacks a story in his or her own inimitable way. I think sometimes we do more harm than good by trying to fit creativity into some tidy, preconceived, one-size-fits-all mold. Give yourself permission to say what you want to say without worrying how the message will emerge or how whatever emerges will be received. Follow the story wherever it leads in any way that makes sense to you.

Are you a planner, panster or both?
I’m one of those annoying hybrids who does both. I always know the ultimate resolution before I start writing. I don’t always know where a novel will begin (So many options arise from the backstory!), and I seldom have any idea what will happen in the vast middle that flummoxes so many of us.

Generally speaking, once I’m several chapters in, I see a vague path from Alpha to Omega, but I’ve learned never to set anything in stone because that’s the best way to find myself under a whole pile of those notorious writer’s blocks. For me, flexibility is enormously important. Every detail along the path from beginning to ending is subject to change or even deletion, but the heart of the story—the essential theme—remains the same.

What is your all-time favorite movie?  TV show?
TV shows: Wild, Wild West. Hell on Wheels. Boston Legal. Murphy Brown. The West Wing.

Favorite movie is a tougher call. I’d have to put Gone with the Wind in there, along with Fried Green Tomatoes, High Plains Drifter, and Memento.

How important do you feel writing workshops are to any writer? I believe in education of all kinds. Workshops can be incredibly helpful for writers, especially when they’re just starting out.
I agree—but I also believe education can be overdone to the point it’s counterproductive. There are so many educational opportunities for writers these days, all of them endorsing different methods for attacking the core issue: telling a story.

Every writer needs basic education in the elements of story and mechanical aspects like spelling, punctuation, and grammar. By all means, writers should explore different techniques for accomplishing the aspects of storytelling with which they struggle. Some techniques may be helpful for some people; no one technique is helpful for everyone. Participating in an endless series of classes and workshops hoping to find the holy grail of storytelling? That way lies madness.

If you could learn one new skill, fear and money no deterrent, what would it be?
According to two RWA-chapter writing contest judges several years ago, what I need to learn is basic English skills and Texas topography. No joke: One judge advised me to take a remedial English class, and the other told me I needed to visit Texas because obviously I have no clue what the state looks like.

Because I try not to ignore good advice, I just may take them up on that.  ;-)

What advice would you like to give to an aspiring writer?
Never give up, and don’t listen to well-meaning advice meant to change something essential about your vision. No matter how good critique partners, editors, agents, teachers, and others are, none of them has as elemental a connection with your stories as you do. All of us—even those who edit—can use help with spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetitive word use, and the other technical aspects of writing. No matter how professional or how experienced, everyone makes mistakes in those areas from time to time.

Deeper elements of storytelling—plot, voice, characterization, symbolism, and the other artistic elements of story—may be highly stylized or plain and straightforward, but those aspects are where art resides in a writer’s work. No one but the writer can make those decisions. If someone else offers advice in those areas, consider it, but don’t let someone else’s opinion make your story into something you never intended for it to become.

Everyone has an opinion. Don’t ever let anyone convince you theirs is more valuable, more “proper,” or more commercial than yours.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
About writing? Four things:

1) Just tell the story.

2) Love is what happens to two people on their way to do something else.

3) Trust the reader.

4) Resist the urge to explain.

If you could live anywhere in the world you wanted to, where would it be? (Language is no barrier)
I’ve lived all over the place; visited several foreign countries and all but a handful of U.S. states. My favorite place always seems to be the place I’m in at the moment. That said, even though I spent most of my formative years outside Texas, I’ve always had a soul-deep connection to the Lone Star State.

I wouldn’t change the vagabond life I lived for most of my [censored] years, because it broadened my horizons, exposed me to things and people and ideas I otherwise might not have encountered, and taught me tolerance. No matter how different we may seem on the outside, most human beings are remarkably similar deep inside, where it counts.

Where do you write?
I have a small, but beloved, home office that began life as a porch but somewhere between 1915 and 2000 was converted into a tiny solarium. One wall is windows overlooking a small, jungle-like backyard; two of the other three walls retain the exterior wooden siding original to the house. The hardwood floor tilts a bit toward the yard, as most porches do, and the space tends to be too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer because it isn’t insulated like rooms usually are and has no air conditioning, but I love bringing the outdoors in through those windows, and the exterior-inside walls inspire me.

How much time do you devote to writing each week?  Do you have a day every week that you take off?
My day job involves writing. I write something every day, whether or not I want to. I try to write at least a sentence or two on one fiction project or another every day, although I’m not always successful. Even when I’m not putting words on a page, though, I’m always working on stories in my head. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of writing. When you’re “stuck,” go do something—anything—else that will free your mind from whatever trap it’s wandered into, and odds are the roadblock will dissolve on its own.

What is a genre that you have not attempted that you would like to try?
Steampunk/weird west. Actually, I have a story on the drawing board that I’m itching to get into. It’s a weird west alternate history about the Texas Revolution. We’ll see if it pans out.

Is there anything you would like readers to know about you?
Honestly, the things readers don’t already know about me are probably best left unknown—mostly because I don’t know them myself. I try to be a WYSIWYG person: What you see is what you get. I learned a long time ago that it’s easier to be the same person all the time. No pretense, no artifice, no hiding behind a different mask depending upon the crowd. Those, and stealing, are things that annoy the living daylights out of me in other people.

Whether or not some folks realize it, most humans have an innate ability to see through fakes. We may not be able to articulate what makes us uncomfortable about another person, but a niggling suspicion in our gut says something’s not quite right. Always go with your gut. It’s seldom wrong. Where we get the “gut response” incorrect sometimes is when we misinterpret what our gut is trying to tell us.

“Making Peace” appears in the Prairie Rose Publications anthology Cowboy Cravings: Four spicy tales of love on the frontier put the “wild” in Wild West.


Making Peace

July 1865, the Texas Crescent

Keeping to the shadows on the porch, Maggie Fannin peeled back the shotgun’s twin hammers and hauled the weapon to her shoulder. She didn’t need to aim. Simply pointing two barrels in the general direction of the Johnny Reb slumped astride a gaunt blood-bay would blast him clean out of the saddle if she pulled the triggers.

And she would do it, if he came any closer. “Hold up right there, mister. What business you got here?”

Head hanging, the horse let loose a long blow saturated with fatigue. Maggie couldn’t see much of the rider’s face with his stained slouch hat pulled low like it was, but the dust coating both him and the gelding said neither had seen rest—or a bath—in a long while.

“Expecting trouble?” The grate that trailed from beneath the hat’s brim bore equal measures of Southern grace and exhaustion.

She adjusted her grip on the gun. “It don’t hurt to be careful.”

The Reb must’ve been some kind of officer, judging by the shabby braid encircling his hat and crawling up the cuffs of his tattered shell jacket. A sheathed saber at his side rattled when he freed his boots from the stirrups with a halfhearted kick and slid from the McClellan saddle. He dropped the reins over the horse’s head, and then clutched a fistful of mane to steady himself.

Muscles aching under the shotgun’s weight, Maggie reoriented her aim. Except for the saber and a knife peeking from one knee-high boot, the stranger wore no weapons. Saddle holsters held a carbine and a pistol. He didn’t seem inclined to reach for either, but she mustn’t drop her guard. Too many dispossessed graybacks, poor as dirt and looking for trouble, had drifted through in the months since the Confederacy surrendered. A woman alone on a rundown homestead made easy prey.

The dilapidated cabin might crumble around her ears, but never again would someone chase her from her home. “I don’t remember invitin’ you to step foot on my property.”

Your property?” The Reb shoved away from the horse. A boot met the lowest porch step with a thud. Slinging a gauntleted grip around the handrail for support, he pulled off his hat and ran a faded sleeve across his brow. Ragged brown hair, graying at the temples, spilled across sallow skin and hung limp beside hollow cheeks glistening with sweat.

His gaze traveled the length of the shotgun’s barrels until the most startling blue eyes she’d ever seen fixed her with an unsteady stare. “You out here all by yourself?”

Maggie fought her trembling arms to keep the gun level. “That ain’t none of your business.”

The Reb cast a glance over the cabin and the surrounding brush. Tall grass, already seared brown at the tips by the summer sun’s relentless glare, waved in the slight breeze. The man swayed, as though the wind blew him, too. “You’re on Collier land. How long have you been here?”

“Long enough.”

“How long?” The growl behind the words set her pulse bounding even as the Reb’s face contorted, and a sharp hiss snaked between teeth set on edge. His battered hat tumbled to the ground when his hand rose to grip his temples between thumb and fingertips.

My God. He’s sick, and no tellin’ with what. The gunstock slipped, dropping the barrels an inch. “You need to leave, mister. Right now. Or I will shoot you.”

The shaggy head rose and a fever-bright gaze captured her with a plea wrapped in a challenge. “Then pull the triggers.”







TracyG said...

Hey, Tex! Loved the interview.

I hope you get to this story! "It’s a weird west alternate history about the Texas Revolution."

Unknown said...

Howdy, Tracy! I hope I get to that story, too! William Barrett Travis and Stephen F. Austin are murdered before the revolution gets a good start, and the technology-laden protagonist's next target is Sam Houston.

Yep -- antiheroes R Us. :-D

Livia J Washburn said...

Kathleen, you are a very wise lady. I love all of your stories at PRP, and can't wait to read more.

Unknown said...

Aw, Livia, you are much too kind. I'm so enjoying writing for PRP. You and Cheryl started something phenomenal. Here's to lots of success! :-)

Unknown said...

Kathleen--I see a highly intelligent, thoughtful, and soft-hearted person hiding inside a glib, witty, funny, devil-may-care outspoken woman. Probably, you are the most unique person I know, for I've never run across anyone to be your equal. I believe you are loyal to the core and would fight to the death for someone you loved...or even liked. But cross you? I don't think that would be a pretty picture.

I have an "earthy" friend, about 8 years older than I who would defend a friend to the end. But make her mad, and she'd never forgive you. However, I did make her angry once, and yep...she was angry and hurt--shame on me. I apologized, etc. but she kept her back turned. One day, she came to me and put her arms around me and said..."I forgive you." Shocked, I asked, "Why?" Her answer? "You know that I love you."
Love covers a lot of sins.

I noticed all your favorite authors are men. Is there a meaning in there somewhere?

I laughed about the judge telling you to visit Texas to see what it was really like. Isn't this typical of many who can't imagine the state is made up of so many topographical landscapes?
Your interview was thoroughly entertaining. Sarah is doing such a good job with these interviews.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I loved your 4 "rules" of writing, especially the one about "love is what happens when 2 people are on their way to do something else."
Your Porch-turned-office sounds so wonderful. I like the idea of having a wall of windows overlooking a natural spot. My house is a 1957 ranch with most of the windows set up higher off the floor. My office gives a view of the tops of trees and I can see Pavlov's fireworks that he has for just about every holiday coming and going. LOL
Your stories are just amazing--usually funny and so full of heart.
I like your quirky personality and the kindness that leaks through everything you say and do. I am so happy you decided to let me interview you. It was a privilege for me to do it.

Kirsten Lynn said...

Wow, reading your answers, Tex, I feel like a slacker. :) I think a steampunk/western would be so fun to write! Can't wait to see what you come up with.

I must not be fully awake, because I'm being way too nice here. :)


Renaissance Women said...

Kathleen, no wonder I feel at home with your comments. You say what's on your mind and I so enjoy that.

This interview confirmed my suspicions, you're an amazing and determined writer who has great stories to tell, and with no small amount of humor. Must be the time you spent in Colorado (Grin) Doris

Laurean Brooks said...

Kathleen, This is probably the most refreshing and revealing interviews I've ever read. I feel as if I know you and would love to get to know you better. You come through as open, honest, and clever. I wish I could meet you in person.

Your characters and scenes jump off the page. Great visuals and "real" people. I enjoyed it very much. Congratulations on a new release.

May God continue to bless your writing, today, and into the future.

Rain Trueax said...

This was an interesting interview. I especially liked your four tips. The snippet sounds good. I bought that anthology; so it's just about finding time to read for pleasure again-- hopefully later this summer.

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Kathleen, so fun to get to know you better! I did a Facebook thing and found out u'm 37% Texan. I guess it's that Homecoming Mum I got once upon a time. I can't wait to dig into the's kindled butnow is making time. Love and best wishes for much success!

Unknown said...

Hello Tracy, great interview and cover. Who doesnt like a cowboy romance. Good luck with sales.

Unknown said...

Darn it, Kathleen, another fabulous book to buy! Can't wait to download it. Interesting article--I know that everyone has their own M.O., but it was really reassuring to know that other writers may have first part, last part, and some ideas for the middle. THANK YOU! Julie (Jesse j Elliot)

Cheryl Pierson said...

HA! You thought I'd forgotten that you were on Sarah's hot seat today at THE ROMANCE ROOM, didn't you!BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I remembered, and I'm here!

But I'm not going to skewer you, my Texas sister. Just wanted to say that though we kid around a lot and talk about which one of us was born on the "wrong" side of the Red River, you know I love you and will tell anyone that you are my twin sister separated at birth.

I enjoyed your interview so much. Always learn something new about you! And I especially loved your 4 rules. Those are fabulous. And you are, too!


Kristy McCaffrey said...

Kathleen--Better late than never! Today was a busy day, and I know you worked very hard at the Fandango. That speaks volumes about you. You keep your word and your commitments--even during difficult times. :-) We all love you, I hope you know.

Now, on to your fun interview. I love Piers Anthony. His Xanth books were such a big part of my adolescence.

Those judges comments? Too funny. Sadly, we've all received strange comments such as that, and in the beginning, they sting and have much impact. I've always remembered that when I judge. It takes the same effort to be kind as it does to be harsh, so why not be kind? Ok, off my soapbox, but you are a very kindhearted lady. The 'gut instinct' is so true. And how many of us set those feelings aside in an effort to be nice, or do what others want, yadda yadda? My teenage daughters aggravate me, but they DON'T let themselves be pushed around. Hallelujah. Their guts are working just fine.

And I love your take on the writing process because I too believe there's really none, just whatever works for you.

You're a wise lady. I'm pleased as punch to know you!

Kaye Spencer said...


Wonderful peeks into your personality--thanks. I, too, would like to write at Steampunk, but I haven't gotten past the basic premise stage.

On your favorite movies... You gave me a great big smile when I read "Memento" is in your favorites list! It's on mine, too. Back when I taught college psychology, this movie was required viewing. Every time I watch it, I pick up something new.

Unknown said...

Celia, I am so humbled by your comments, dear lady. I've always enjoyed and admired your work, and now that we've become acquainted a bit, I'm a fan of you as a person, as well. I love your Southern gentility, your humility, your refusal to toot your own horn even though you have plenty to brag about. I imagine you were one of those teachers who had an enormous soft spot in her heart for her students but didn't brook any foolishness -- the kind of teacher from whom many of us learned subtle lessons about life, whether or not we realized it at the time.

I love your story about the friend! It reminds me a lot of the stories you tell in your books and short stories: at once touching and funny, with a lesson in sheep's clothing at its heart.

After I got over the shock of that one judge's comments about Texas, I had to laugh. I still laugh when I think about that. You and I know Texas is almost a microcosm of the topography everywhere else in the U.S., all wrapped up in one big state. I imagine many other people see Texas as a vast, barren plain with a few cows sprinkled here and there. ;-)

HUGS to you, sweet lady!

Unknown said...

Sarah, that's my favorite rule, too! I try to keep that one -- and trust the reader -- in mind with every story. Readers really are smarter than some writers give them credit for being. They "get" things without the author beating them over the head with the obvious. ;-)

As for two people falling in love on their way to do something else? My favorite stories are those that are much grander than simply the romance. LAST OF THE MOHICANS is a great example: It's a love story at its heart, but there's an intense external plot going on, as well. For me, the best romance novels are ones in which the external plot is more than window dressing. After reading most of the novels and short stories written by the Prairie Roses, it seems most of us feel that way. :-)

Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I love you to death, you kind, warmhearted,sneaky Southern Belle. :-)


Unknown said...

Rustler (Kirsten), I don't know what's gotten into you lately. You ARE being way too nice! Makes me a bit suspicious. Maybe I need to put another wrangler or two on night herd. ;-)

I am so looking forward to seeing more of your work published. You've got an inimitable voice and style. I'm just tickled to death Cheryl finally kicked your rustling butt and dragged you kicking and screaming into the Prairie Rose sisterhood.

Let's forgo the hugging thing, shall we? Folks might think the apocalypse was imminent. ;-)

Unknown said...

Doris, I feel like we've known each other for years! I also think you're right: must be the time I spent in Colorado. :-D

Look who's talking about determined, amazing, and great stories with humor! I can't wait for your debut story to get out there. Get busy on those revisions, woman! Livia designed a beautiful cover, and it's just waiting for your words to fill it. :-)

I so appreciate your devotion to researching unsung heroines of the Old West. I appreciate even more your willingness to share all that fascinating material with the rest of the world. And your haiku and photography! My goodness, woman. It's just not fair that one person has so much talent in so many different areas. I think I have to hate you now. ;-)


Unknown said...

Laurean, I wish we could meet in person, too! Maybe we will one of these days. :-)

Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot, coming from a talented author whose JOURNEY TO FORGIVENESS is such romantic, thoughtful, fun-to-read work. I hope you continue to do what you do so well for a long, long time. Inspirational romance boring or "preachy"? Hardly! (Plus, Austin is luscious. Always a good thing in a hero. :-D )

I'm certain God blesses you daily and will continue to do so. It shows in the way your stories inspire others. :-)


Unknown said...

Rain, I'm always glad to see you! I hope you get some time to do something for fun soon, sweetie. You've had a busy year already, and it's only the midway point! :-D

I've got all three of your Diablo Canyon stories (THE DARK OF THE MOON, WHEN FATES CONSPIRE, STORM IN THE CANYON) on my Kindle. Can't wait to get started on them. Your stories always incorporate surprises and elements of mysticism, and I love that.


Unknown said...

TANYA! I'll bet you're right about that mum. Texans are known for football, big hair, and over-the-top homecoming and prom corsages. :-D

I'm still just in awe of your stories in the PRP anthologies. I've never been able to decide which is my favorite, although I kind of lean toward "Open Hearts" in HEARTS AND SPURS. Poor Sheriff Kyle was sure in over his depth there for a while! :-D "Covenant" in WISHING FOR A COWBOY has stuck with me, too. Such a touching read.

You've got a rare gift for sucking readers right on in with relatable characters in quirky or heart-wrenching situations.

Much love, Prairie Rose sister!

Unknown said...

Julie/Jesse, I'm so glad you stopped by! I'm also glad to hear someone else has a somewhat "messy process." Frustrating sometimes, no?

The classic writing advice is "write what you know." If I did that, my poor characters would be nothing but frustration with legs. How about you? ;-)


Unknown said...

Well, shoot. That dang Okie (Cheryl) caught up with me. Got news for you, twin sister separated at birth: YOU are on the wrong side of the Red River! :-D

In all seriousness, I love you to death. I couldn't ask for a better sister, friend, editor, and butt-kicker. Who else would point at me and laugh about stupid mistakes like the desert/dessert and pore/pour debacles? (I'm disavowing any knowledge of both of those, BTW.)

I've learned so much from you and Livia -- about storytelling, about patience, about friendship, and much, much more.

I'm not fabulous...but I AM darn lucky to have fallen in with the PRP gang. I'm planning to raise a ruckus for a long time to come, so you might as well keep those butt-kicking boots handy. ;-)

HUGE HUGS, twin sister separated at birth!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow, Kristy! Sneaked right on in here, didn't you? :-D (You beat me here, though. I feel SO guilty about being this tardy in responding to comments. **sigh**)

You continue to inspire me. I STILL want to write like you do when I grow up.

About that Fandango: Where would we have been without you? You kept everybody calm, made sure they were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there, kept the rest of the Five Musketeers backstage from behaving badly -- and most important of all, passed out the tequila shots! (Bring more tequila next time. I'm begging you.)

Piers Anthony's Xanth books are among my favorite reads EVER. Total silliness and such fun! Wonder if he and Jacquie Rogers (the queen of truly awful puns) are related? ;-)

Don't you just love contest judges? Thankfully, I've worked under some of the most brutal newspaper editors on the planet, so I'm accustomed to harsh comments. Reporters have to develop rhino hide early on or they're doomed. :-D

New writers, though, can be completely crushed by some of the things I've seen judges write in their critiques. I've judged, too, and I'm with you: It takes a tremendous amount of courage to enter a writing contest. Shouldn't we give aspiring authors a hand up instead of tearing them down?

"It takes the same effort to be kind as it does to be harsh, so why not be kind?" That's one of the things I love and admire most about you. You are one of the kindest, most positive people I know. I want to be like you in that way, too, when I grow up. :-)

You've done an excellent job with those daughters of yours, even if they vex you sometimes. Kids of any age (even us old ones ;-) ) learn by example. That yours have learned to be individuals and "go with their guts" is fantastic! So many women, in particular, never learn that lesson. I find that sad.

I'm not wise. I'm just "seasoned." As they say, though, "age and experience beat youth and beauty every time." ;-)


Unknown said...

Good interview Kathleen. The book cover looks romantic. Good luck with sales.

Linda Hubalek said...

Nice to learn more about you. Good interview!