Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sara Walter Ellwood Returns with Heartland

Heartland
Singing to the Heart Book 3
by Sara Walter Ellwood

Releasing June 21, 2016 in both ebook and print

Sex, drugs, and country music. That was the lifestyle for Emily Kendall, a Texas girl who hit it big on the country music charts—until she found herself pregnant and battling addiction. Now out of rehab and seeking a new life for herself and her unborn child, Emily returns to her hometown of McAllister. The last thing she’s looking for is trouble, no matter how good it looks in uniform…
A widower, single father, and former Army Ranger struggling with PTSD, Sheriff EJ Cowley has his own demons to battle while keeping folks safe. The last thing he needs is a troubled celebrity speeding through town in her bright red Maserati. But when someone from Emily’s past threatens her safety and the peace of McAllister, EJ has no choice but to protect her. And soon both will learn there’s more to the other than meets the eye. And that wounded hearts can love again…

Excerpt:
“I’m sorry, but I can’t ride you right now.” Emily kissed the horse above her nose, and Tink nuzzled her cheek. “We’ll go out tomorrow. How about that?”

“I remember when you rode that horse everywhere you went.”

Startled by the deep voice, she turned. EJ Cowley leaned on the top rail of the fence, and from the look of it, he’d been there for a while. He’d changed out of the brown uniform of the McAllister County sheriff’s department. She couldn’t help looking him over. Dressed in worn boots, faded jeans, a blue western shirt, and a brown Stetson, he epitomized every sexy cliché existing about how a cowboy should look.

Her heart sped up at the way those clothes fit him. Which irritated the hell out of her. She turned back to her horse and stroked her long face. “What are you doing here?”

“My sister-in-law watches my son while I’m at work.”

She stilled. Had she been quasi-lusting after a married man? Hadn’t he married Raquel Marshall? She glanced over her shoulder at his left hand. No ring. But then a lot of cowboys didn’t wear their wedding bands when they were working. The risk of getting it caught on something was too great.

Despite his clothes, he must have come off duty as the county’s ticket-happy sheriff not too long ago. She patted Tink’s shoulder. “See you in the morning, girl.” As she headed toward the man, who was not hiding the fact he appreciated what he saw, she guessed he wasn’t still married, but she’d been around the world a few times and knew not to take a man’s blatant interest as proof of anything. “You have a son. How is Raquel these days?”

She was close enough to notice his gray eyes had turned as haunted as a gravestone when she asked about his wife. He looked to the left, toward his brother’s house, and from the way a muscle twitched in his jaw, he must have gritted his teeth.

“She committed suicide two years ago today.”

“Oh… I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she stammered. What else had happened to the people she’d once considered friends she was unaware of? “How old is your little boy?”

He took a deep breath and met her gaze again. She studied his eyes as they moved over her face. God, he had the most fascinating eyes. They weren’t truly blue, but the gray was an odd shade. Too light to be slate, but too dark to be silver. They reminded her of her great-grandmother’s pewter candleholders.

“Two.”

As silence engulfed them, she turned to head for the gate. She had no idea what was up with the sheriff, and she didn’t like her desire to ask. EJ Cowley may have filled her schoolgirl fantasies, but she wasn’t the wide-eyed kid who crushed after the local cowboy-turned-soldier.

“Emwee?”

At the sound of her name, she glanced past EJ to the porch. Johnny stood there with his toy lightsaber and x-wing. She promised to play a video game with her brother. “Well, it was good seeing you again, EJ.”

She was halfway across the drive when his voice stopped her. “By the way”--He cleared his throat--“I lost your ticket...”

Stopping in the middle of the driveway, she looked over her shoulder at him. His face puckered as if he’d eaten a lemon soaked in vinegar. He took his hat off and ran a hand through his short hair. The setting sun turned the tresses a gleaming gold.

“You lost it?” Damned if she’d make it easy on him. “After going through all the trouble of stopping me a mile away from home?”

Setting his hat back on his head, he cleared his throat again and stood with his feet apart. He gave a quick jerk with his head in the affirmative. “Can’t find it anywhere. No ticket. No proof. You’re off the hook.”

Holy crap, he was gorgeous, and heat flooded her to pool in her belly. She turned, not wanting him to see the way he affected her, and headed for the porch, then lied through her teeth. “Good, because I’ve already tossed it.” She had every intention of paying the fine, but she was glad he lost the ticket. No decent cop would lose a ticket. Maybe he did it out of remembrance of their childhood friendship. Or was he as attracted to her as she was to him?

With an inward shake of herself, she didn’t let a possible answer formulate in her muddled brain. She couldn’t be anything to him. You’re pregnant with another man’s child and don’t need the added stress! At the door into the kitchen, she ruffled Johnny’s hair and turned, ignoring her self-admonishment. “See you around, EJ.”

“Yeah… See you around.” He tipped his hat and turned on his heel to amble toward his extended cab Silverado.

From inside the screen door, she watched the way he filled out the backside of his Wrangler’s and muttered, “Hell yeah, I hope so.”

If you’d like to see more excerpts, check them out here.

Buy Links:
Kensington
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Google
Kobo

About the Author:
Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia. Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also dabbles in the paranormal genre with her The Hunter’s Dagger Series, which was previously published under the pen name Cera duBois.

Author Links:

 


The other books in Singing to the Heart

Heartstrings, Book 1, and Heartsong, Book 2, are also available in ebook and print!

Heartstrings on Amazon | Heartsong on Amazon

For other vendor links and book information check out my website page.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Those Damned Teenagers, or, Get Your Own Damned Sunflower Seeds

Here's Laverne, because I can't find Shirley's photo.
Spring, the time of birth. We successfully kept Laverne, the prolific mama mourning dove from nesting on our ladder this year by taking down the ladder. We put it back up after we were sure she'd nested somewhere else, and a few weeks later...Shirley was back. You remember Shirley, she was the high-strung robin that nested on the ladder with Laverne a couple of years ago. So now we have to wait for Shirley's eggs to hatch before I can do the gutters. Again.

Anyway, we also have a starling family running around. There are two adults and two fledglings. The fledglings have this horrible screechy call and it's pretty non-stop. My husband noticed them on our feeder one day, and how the parent was feeding the fledglings. I explained that after they fledge, it's a learning period where they still get fed by the parents. He was like, "but they're so BIG." I joked that they're just like today's teenagers/twenty-somethings: perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, but still demanding the parents do it for them.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Today, they were running around outside my window again, with a change in dynamic. The parents were eating seeds off the ground...and NOT feeding the "youngsters." Which are now easily twice the size of the parents.

Now, I'm not a passionate birder. I retain knowledge (I think) from my summer as a naturalist intern and my zoology class in college. I started to think these "fledglings" are cowbirds. The brown-headed cowbird is a parasite. It lays its eggs in OTHER birds' nests, and the cowbirds, being bigger and more aggressive, can often cause the other babies to...well, you can imagine. But the coloring is definitely more starling than cowbird, so maybe they just look so much bigger because they haven't molted yet or whatever. Or maybe the parents did such a good job with the feeding that they grew really big.

I felt really bad for the parents, though, because they looked pretty done with the whole thing. Kinda like human parents, in a lot of cases. :)

(I tried to get photos/video, but they've disappeared. I know if I keep waiting to post this, they'll never show up. So here's my cat watching a chipmunk instead. :) )


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Upcoming Author Events

Natalie at Cupboard Maker Books

I don't know how I managed it, but I have a SLEW of appearances happening this year. I mean, I already did YAPA Con, an author panel and a meet and greet for the Dauphin County Library System, and a booksigning at Cupboard Maker Books. But wait! There's more! If you're hoping to meet me and get signed copies of my books, I have three opportunities for that! And if you just want to hang with me (and other authors) online and have a chance to get cool prizes, I have three opportunities for that, too! :) So here are they are, in chronological order:

Lady Jane's Salon, Lancaster
May 22, 1–4 p.m., The Cat's Meow, Manheim, PA

I'll be reading from my latest release, The Color of Courage, and will have some giveaways and books for sale. Other authors also featured are Misty Simon, Olivia Night, and Lydia Michaels.

Celebrate Dragons Month
May 23, 9–10:30 p.m. EDT on Facebook

I'll be helping to celebrate the release of Jamie K. Schmidt's new book (and dragons, of course) with a few other guest authors. Come by for chatting about dragons and dragon shifters, books, and probably hunks. That's how these things tend to go. :) And there are always prizes!

Romance Writers Gone Wild
May 26 & 27 on Facebook

This party actually goes on ALL WEEK LONG. Each day will feature authors in different romance genres. I'll be posting on Thursday (as a paranormal romance/urban fantasy author) and Friday (as a romantic suspense author). But stop in every day and see what's going on! Individual authors will be giving away prizes, and there are several "grand" prizes to be won, such as Kindles and gift cards.

YA Book Signing
June 11, 1–3 p.m., Cupboard Maker Books, Enola, PA

For this in-person booksigning, I'll be wearing my YA hat as NJ Damschroder and signing the two books in my Fusion Series, including the new release, Shadow Mission. I'll be joining Gabriella Gill and Tom Tancin. Come on by!

Romance Saturday
June 25, 2 p.m., Aaron's Books, Litiz, PA

Meet 9 local romance authors as they sign and discuss their books.  Authors include NY Times bestselling Megan Hart, Vicky Burkholder, Sara Walter Ellwood, Natalie J. Damschroder, D.R. Grady, Patty Taylor, Gerri Bowen, Allison B. Hanson, and Brandy Ayers. There's quite a mix of subgenres; check out details here.

Hope to see you around!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

"Firsts" in a Long Career

The Color of Courage was released yesterday by Soul Mate Publishing. It's my 22nd published novel, nearly 16 years after the release of Hunter's Song. After so much time and so many books, it's kind of amazing that I can still celebrate firsts with number 22.

1. My First Superhero Book (also the first in the series).
I actually wrote it 10 years ago, before the current boom of superheroes in TV and film. I've always loved superhero romances, but I wanted, as usual, to be different from everyone else. I'm not sure if I managed it, especially now that superheroes are all angsty and stuff. Mine have to deal with everyday problems like bill collectors and a-hole exes and day jobs, because it's not like saving people earns you a living. Of course, that's all on top of battling someone who is determined to take them down, and Daley, the heroine of TCoC, also has her personal insecurities and a complicated love life to deal with.

2. My First Urban Fantasy
Because of the way publishing works, Goddesses Rising was published before The Color of Courage. So to everyone else, it's not my first urban fantasy. But it's the first one I wrote. The first story that strayed from the romantic focus. The romance is strong, of course, it always will be in what I write, but it's not traditional. We're talking more Elemental Assassins (Jennifer Estep) and less Superhero Central (Julie Kenner). There's also more action and external conflict, and more personal internal conflict than there is romantic conflict.

3. My First First Person POV
Again, Full Fusion and Shadow Mission, the books in my YA series, were commercially available before The Color of Courage. But I wrote TCoC first. Why first person? Because that's how the story came to me. Ian, Daley's boyfriend, breaking up with her in scene 1, and Daley not seeing it coming. Her superpower is being an empath, seeing emotions as colors in a person's aura. But she can't see emotions that are about her. So that just had to be written from Daley's point of view. (I have to admit, it's hampering me now, because I'm craving Dev's POV in The Light of Redemption but I'm telling Harmony's story and Dev is just a part of it. A big, powerful, awesome part. :) )

This book is an incredible value, at 92,000 words and only $2.99. You can buy it here or read the opening scene here. But read on for an exclusive excerpt!

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mr. Mustache drove us out to about twenty yards from the wreck, then idled in a little closer before cutting the engine and dropping anchor. The closer we got, the more frenzied the dog became. The woman appeared to be unconscious, possibly from a head injury. Her blond hair was matted with blood.

“Can you calm the dog?” Summer asked me in a low voice. I was already trying, building my bubble and projecting it outward. The dog’s fury was too intense, though, and we were too far away.

We studied the scene for a minute, riding the boat up and down in the chop.

“Let me see if I can summon her.” Kirby lifted both hands and concentrated. The woman rose a couple of inches, but then stopped. Kirby shook her head.

“She’s caught. I don’t want to rip a leg off or something.”

“We have to go closer,” I said.

“I know, but—”

“I’ll get in the water.” I’d already moved toward the side of the boat when Trace put his hand on my arm.

“That dog will tear you apart.”

I crouched in the bottom of the boat to avoid tipping it. “I can calm him. Animals are simpler, I’m sure I can do it quickly. Then you come in, go under, and untangle her. We’ll drag her to the boat. The dog will probably follow, swimming. He won’t be much danger in the water.”

Trace didn’t like it. His anxiety and fear were growing, as were all of ours. We shared a bad feeling about this, but had no idea how to prove it was a setup, or prepare for it, or stop it. We could only rescue the woman.

He nodded, once. I stood, adjusted my flexi-shield and double-checked that my boots and gloves were secure to my suit, and dove in.

I’d scuba-dived before, but I’d never gone in the water with my suit. The water moved around me, but didn’t touch my skin. The suit held air and buoyed me immediately to the surface, which was good, because the flexi-shield made me feel like I could breathe, but its filters closed as soon as there was no airflow. Any air trapped in the shield wouldn’t last long. I’d have to surface to breathe.

I gave the others a thumbs-up and started a slow breaststroke toward the dog. He’d stopped barking for a moment when I went in the water, but started up again when I swam toward him. Spittle flew off his jaws. His feet scrabbled at the fiberglass under them, his weight shifting with the force of his anger. I could see his teeth, clean and sharp, and was glad my suit would protect me. From being shredded, anyway.

I treaded water a few feet from his face and wished the flexi-shield had sound-dampening qualities. Kirby wanted to get upgrades, now that we had Auberginois’ money. Maybe that was a feature we should ask for.

“Okay, Charm, stop daydreaming and start working.” I concentrated on calming the dog again. My bubble touched his fury, pushing it back. But it wasn’t diminishing. It was like it sank deep into him, and my bubble bent around his body but would go no further. His behavior didn’t change. If anything he went more wild, the sharpness of his bark becoming shrill, almost panicked.

I concentrated, moving my arms and legs only enough to stay afloat and in one place, trying to force his emotion to change. Sweat trickled down my right temple. My jaw started to ache, and then my frustration began to affect the bubble of calm.

Trace and Summer were calling at me to turn back. I was about to when the dog yelped, did a rearing half-twist, and fell into the water behind the boat. He didn’t resurface.

I wasn’t sure if I had caused that or if something else had, but it didn’t matter. I dove back under the water as best I could, trying to see where he’d gone. There was no thrashing shape, no teeth about to grab my leg. I bobbed back to the surface as a splash sounded behind me. It was heavy, probably Trace. I set out for the woman, and a moment later he passed me, his dark shirt telling me he’d shed his suit.

Adam would kill him.

I saw why he’d done it immediately. The suits were virtually airtight and kept us afloat. Trace dove deep, his hands trailing over the woman’s torso and legs. He could stay down, his endurance allowing him to hold his breath for long periods. I watched him work to untangle some kind of line. The dog was still nowhere in sight. Then an odd movement caught my eye. The woman’s hand had risen out of the water. I lifted my head. She was looking right at me, her malevolence on par with Gino Scarengio’s on the ledge. I froze, my blood far colder than the water around me. She was with CASE.

“Trace!”

But he couldn’t hear me. He didn’t have his shield on, so he had no com.

The woman grimaced and lifted her hand higher out of the water. Then I realized that was supposed to be a grin, and she was holding some kind of trigger. I screamed Trace’s name again and dove, but the stupid floating suit kept me from getting to him. She hung in the water, drifting as he untangled the line, and he had no clue anything was wrong.

I bobbed. Her thumb started to clench on the button. I dove again. Trace had stopped trying to untangle her and stared at the line stretched across his hands. He turned to me, his eyes wide, and I realized what he held. Some kind of waterproof primer cord.

She was going to blow us up.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fun with Quarterly Reporting, or, Yay, Spring!

It's Sweet Home Alabama meets
National Treasure. Who will Zoe pick?
 How's everyone's 2016 going so far?

I have to say, mine has started SO much more satisfyingly than 2015 in its entirety.

In 2015, I only had one new book release, plus a short story. Okay, sure, I also re-issued three books and a short story or two. And I wrote 150,000 new words and edited over 2,000 pages. But for the entire year, I felt as if I wasn't getting anywhere.

This year has been so different! I have TWO new books out already, Aftershocks and Shadow Mission. And a third should be coming out next month, my first Superhero book. It's all very exciting!

I have a book on submission. So far, it's getting praise but the publishers don't know "how to position it" in their list. Story of my career! LOL

A new series is in development, a romantic suspense I'm enjoying writing. In fact, all the writing I've been tackling (the next Soul book, the next Superhero book, the third Fusion book) has been fun, even the parts that I ended up discarding. I just wish I had more time to tackle all of them!

The world Roxie's part of is so much more
complicated than she knew.
The winter has eased up faster than normal, too. We had 70-degree days in early March, and I have to admit, I like daylight savings starting so early and giving me more sunshine in the evening. It shines into my office window, and the difference in my energy levels and mood are incredible.

And now stuff I look forward to is looming close enough to matter. Writing retreat in May. Family reunion in July. Vacation in August. Nephew's wedding in September—the first wedding in the next generation. It's enough to make me feel old. LOL

Outside my window, mini daffodils I planted last year have sprouted, and my dwarf lilac bush has budding leaves.

This is the second-best part of the TV season, when the "drought" hiatus—when EVERYTHING is in reruns—is over and we're about to hit the final stretch when every show pulls out all the stops. Plus, some shows return (12 Monkeys and Orphan Black, yay!) and the fun movies are coming to town. (Though I confess nothing is making me super-excited this year. Which could be good. They might exceed my expectations.)

So what's making you happy on the cusp of the vernal equinox?

(If you'd like to read excerpts of my new releases, you'll find Aftershocks here and Shadow Mission here. Thanks!)

Friday, January 01, 2016

Ending the Year With...A Little Bit of Desperation (Plus a Cover Reveal!)

This was the first New Year's Eve that we had no kids in the house. It was anticlimactic. We didn't do anything differently, really. We made party pizzas (tradition) and watched some TV. Talked to the girls, who were together up in Boston, cuddling on the couch while they watched Friends and waited for the ball to drop. (My heart squeezes.)

I did some work after dinner, then tried to write enough to make my goal for the year. Which didn't exist until this month, and then became something I was both determined to achieve and almost incapable of, for no good reason. What I mean is that reaching the goal was certainly doable, but I kept letting other things get in the way.

My local writing chapter holds a 50/50 challenge twice a year. We write 50 words a day for 50 days. I always try to keep that going through the end of the year, and I almost succeeded. October 12 through December 24, I didn't miss a day. And then Christmas. Which wouldn't have derailed me except for the side trip to urgent care for Number One (she's fine) at the end of the evening, and then it was 10:00 and I had to watch Doctor Who and I...forgot.

So I skipped a few days. And then ennui. BUT I am stubborn and competitive, even against myself, so for two days I wrote 500 words or more on five different projects, finishing on the couch as the ball dropped. (Okay. Just after the ball dropped. Those last 200 words, and of course they counted, they always count if I write them before I go to bed.)

It was difficult and a bit desperate for no good reason, but I'm thrilled to be able to say I wrote 150,046 words in 2015. And it gives me a target for 2016, because I only finished two novels in 2015 (plus a novella and a short story, and I did finish revising a few things, and published 7 books, but still) and I want to do more this year.

What else did I do in 2015?

Edited/revised 2,236 pages of my own work. Which is a modest number, since some of those were single spaced.

Edited 856 pages of fiction in a professional capacity.

Critiqued 1,199 pages of fiction for friends.

Read 118 books (Goodreads calls it 100, but boxed sets throw everything off.)

DNF (did not finish) 42 books. Wow! That seems like a lot. Let me check... Yep, previous years were 17, 21, 25, and 27, with one other outlier at 44. There were a couple that just weren't up to scratch, with poor editing or writing, but most were a matter of taste. There are things I don't like to read about, no matter how well done. So that isn't a reflection on anything except that maybe I tried a bunch of stuff outside of my normal comfort zone, and that's a good thing, right?

Saw 30 movies. 15 at the theater, two that I DVR'd when we had free pay cable, and 12 on DVD/Blu-Ray. I also binged 11 TV shows.

So that was a pretty good year. Okay, want a cover reveal? I just got this cover a couple of days ago, and now I'm really excited to release the book, which is good because my goal for January is to get through revisions, edits, and publication. Ready? Here we go!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Those Birthday Numbers

This is how old I am today.
I have never been bothered by my birthday. Ever. Thirty and forty were kind of awesome, actually. Being bothered by progression of the calendar is so pointless. And everyone does it, and I always have been one who doesn't like to do what everyone does. I hate generalizations. All of them. ;)

So I don't know why today's number strikes so hard. Not in a bad way, really, except that it's an odd number. I realized I hate odd-number ages four years ago. I was interviewed as part of an article in the local newspaper's Sunday magazine. When I read "Natalie J. Damschroder, age 41," something squirmed hard inside me. I did NOT like seeing that number in print.

But it wasn't because OMG I was getting old. It was because it was an odd number. I freaking LOVED being 42. (Also, it amused me that the magazine, NEXT, was for retired readers.)

But I don't like 45.

I get super-annoyed whenever my body betrays my sense of uniqueness and makes me cliché. Like when everyone told me your body starts to fall apart after you turn 30. I scoffed, of course. Like my body knows our arbitrary numbering system and has any clue what date it is. And then of course things started going wrong. Slip on ice and slam my knee to the pavement...and still can't kneel six months later. Tear a labrum in my shoulder that gives me horrendous headaches for two years until I figure out what's wrong and avoid things like carrying diaper bags on that shoulder.

So what does 45 mean? When I look at it this way, it's pretty neutral. I'm the age my mother was when my daughter was born. I'm 10 years away from a senior citizen discount. It would be really hard to get pregnant right now, unless I desperately did not want to, and then it would probably happen in a snap. (It can't, but I did know a woman who got pregnant at 48.) I'm a very analytical person, and I can't analyze this feeling.

OH! I just figured it out. I am no longer "in the demo." You know, the most important people in the world to those who measure consumption. Mostly of entertainment, but also of other products. The upper number is a little fluid. In fact, for TV ratings I think it's 49 now. But you know how when you take a survey and they do an age breakdown at the end to measure demographic data? One of them typically ends in 44.

THAT'S why 45 bothers me. That and it's odd. So no one be surprised if I start accidentally saying I'm 46. (I did that when I was 43, so that made me 44 for two years, but in the opposite of the way people usually do it.)

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!