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Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 2 Here!

For the next few weeks I will be sharing the first several chapters Tatia’s Tattoo. The link to the Preface and Chapter 1 is at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 2. Chapter 3 will be posted on Sunday.

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim size


She made it through security in record time and, as always, Tatia breathed a prayer of thanks for Senator Porter’s administrative assistant. After Tatia almost missed her first opportunity to testify before the Senate subcommittee that was reviewing the Trafficking Act, the efficient young woman from the Texas Senator’s office walked her through the red tape of the TSA Pre-Checked Security System. Still, Tatia always arrived well before flight time, just in case.

Her frequent flyer status entitled her to lounge privileges, but since she didn’t drink, smoke, or flirt, she preferred to spend her pre-flight time with the regular folks. She did, however, drink coffee, so she picked up a decaf mocha before heading toward her gate. She paid no attention to the glances and outright stares she attracted as she walked down the concourse with a long-legged stride, her shoulder-length blonde hair swinging in rhythm with the tap of her heels. Her thoughts were focused instead on the two campers she would meet for the first time in a couple of days. She felt the same mix of emotions she always felt before camp – the excitement of almost unlimited possibilities and the dread of the heartbreak that would come when, after being together twenty-four hours a day for five days, the week came to an end.

For now, however, she had a plane to catch, and she suddenly realized she was beyond where she would find hers. Relieved that she had no traveling companion to notice her lack of concentration, she quickly turned around and made her way back to the correct gate. The waiting area was almost empty, so she had her pick of seats. She chose one with a view of both the tarmac beyond the window and the desk where the gate agent would deal with irate passengers who were certain their situation was the most important on the planet. She smiled, looking forward to a week free of irate politicians who were even more certain than the passengers that their situations were the most important on the planet.

She settled back in her seat and pulled the purple notebook out of her shoulder bag. She sipped her coffee and flipped to the first page: “Royal Children’s Camp, Counselor and Staff Manual, Preparing Yourself for Camp.” The familiar pages were highlighted and the edges were tattered from years of use. She knew most of the material by heart, but going through it again helped refocus her mind from the outside world to the children. She skipped over a couple of pages and read the camp’s mission statement. The last sentence was underlined, highlighted, and marked with a star in the margin: “We will create life-changing moments and extend loving hands to these children of abuse.” She closed her eyes and whispered, “Help me create life-changing moments and loving memories for Carmella and Amanda.”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the patter of little feet and the excited squeals of a dark-haired five-year-old with sparkling brown eyes. “Daddy,” shouted the little girl, running to the window and pointing toward the runway at a plane that was just touching down. “Is that our airplane?”

A tall, handsome man with a suitcase in each hand followed her to the window and knelt beside her. “I don’t know, Angel,” he said with a loving smile as he pointed toward the area directly in front of where they were kneeling. “It might be. Our airplane will pull up right there, and when it’s time to go, we’ll walk through a tunnel and get on the plane.”

A young woman joined the pair, putting her overnight case on the floor and kneeling on the other side of Angel. “Mommy, our airplane will park right there, and we’ll walk through a tunnel. Daddy said!”

Tatia felt like an intruder, watching the little group share a family moment, but she couldn’t look away. It wasn’t a life-changing moment, but it was one of many moments that would accumulate into a lifetime of loving memories for Angel. Tatia’s life might have been very different if there had been time for a few more family moments for her.

“My daddy died,” said five-year-old Tatia.

“I know, sweetie,” said the nice church lady. “Would you like another cookie?”

Tatia didn’t want another cookie. She’d had three already and a plateful of chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. She didn’t want any more food. She wanted to talk about Daddy.

“He died over the seas somewhere. His car ran over a bomb, and he blew up. The preacher said he’s in his father’s house, but I saw him. He’s in a box and his face looked all painted.”

The church lady looked funny and her eyes got a little red.

“I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

She hugged Tatia and went to see if anybody else wanted another cookie. Tatia looked for her mama. She couldn’t find her, but she found her grandmother. She tried to climb up in her lap, but her grandmother pushed her away.

“Get down, Tatia. You’re too big to be sitting in my lap. Besides, your shoes are dirty, and you’ll ruin my dress.”

Tatia looked down at her black, patent-leather shoes. They had always been her favorites, the ones she was only allowed to wear to church or parties. They had straps, and she liked the special socks that went with them, the white ones with the pink lace around the edges. Now the shoes were splattered with sand from the graveyard. Bits of grass and several stray burrs clung to the lace on her socks.

“Now, go outside and clean yourself up.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Tatia said as she shuffled toward the door.

“Pick up your feet when you walk, and don’t slam the door on the way out.”

Tatia concentrated on being sure her shoes cleared the floor each time she took a step, and she slipped outside as quietly as she could.

It was nice outside. The fellowship hall of the little country church was too warm, and there were so many people that it was hard to breathe. Everyone in town knew her daddy, and they all came to pay their respects to a local war hero. They also turned out for the lunch afterward – the ladies at the First Baptist Church were famous for their cooking.

Tatia walked on the curb that ran along the edge of the driveway that looped from the parking lot to the front door and back toward the street. She balanced carefully until she came to the intersection of the cement and the grass, and then she sat down. She began gingerly pulling the burrs from her socks and brushing away the sand and grass. When they were as clean as she could get them, she stood and shook the way she’d seen her friend’s dog do after his bath, hoping to get rid of anything she missed.


She jumped when Aunt Sheila called her name. She had been so intent on her task she hadn’t heard the door open. Sheila wasn’t really her aunt, but she was Grandma’s best friend and acted like a surrogate aunt sometimes.

“Yes, ma’am?” she said quickly.

“You’d better get in here. Your grandma has been looking everywhere for you.”

Tatia sighed and hurried inside. No matter how hard she tried, it seemed like Grandma was always mad at her. Sometimes Tatia saw her whispering with Aunt Sheila and other ladies, and they all looked at her funny. One day she was outside playing, and she could hear what they were saying. She hadn’t meant to listen, but the window was open, and Grandma had a pretty loud voice.

“Steve would never have married her if she hadn’t been expecting Tatia. Sometimes I wonder if Steve is even her father, but he was determined to do the honorable thing. She and that baby ruined his life, and I’ll never forgive either of them for that.”

Tatia didn’t know what all that meant, but she knew it wasn’t good and that somehow it was her fault. Tatia wondered if Daddy liked it in his father’s house. She wondered if he had to stay in that box or if he could get out and walk around. She didn’t want to have to get her face all painted up and lie in a box, but if there was another way to get to where Daddy was, she’d sure like to go. She was still in Springdale, though, where he’d left her, and now Grandma was mad at her again. Mama was really sad, and tonight she would probably drink too much of that brown stuff that made her act funny. She wished her Daddy hadn’t run over that bomb.

Tatia had put on her pajamas and had been playing on the floor for a long time, but Mama hadn’t come in to help her say her prayers, tuck her in, and kiss her goodnight. She stood up, put all her dolls to bed, and kissed them. Then, clutching her favorite bear under her arm, she quietly opened her bedroom door. She peeked out into the hallway, and seeing no one, she tip-toed toward the living room and peered around the door jamb. Mama was lying down with one arm covering her eyes and the other hanging off the edge of the couch. She had a half-empty bottle of brown liquid clutched in her hand.

“Mama, I’m ready for bed.”

“Honey, this one time can you be a big girl and put yourself to bed? Mama doesn’t feel well.”

Tatia could always tell when Mama had been drinking a lot. Her words got all fuzzy and mashed up together.

“But, Mama, aren’t you going to help me with my prayers?”

“Why bother? He doesn’t hear them anyway, or if He does, he ignores them. We prayed for your daddy every night, and look how that turned out.”

Tatia was a little bit scared. She had never heard Mama’s voice sound like it sounded now – like somebody else was using Mama’s voice – like Mama wasn’t really there.

“But, Mama…”

“Tatia, I can’t! I have to think. I have to figure out what to do, how I’ll feed you, where we’ll live. I can’t do this by myself!”

As Mama began to sob, tears escaped from Tatia’s clear, blue eyes, rolling down her pink cheeks, dripping onto the blonde curls that fell across her shoulders as she stared at the floor. She thought about what she had heard outside the church before they left. Grandma was yelling at Mama.

“You think you’re all set now, don’t you? Well, I have an appointment with my lawyer tomorrow morning, and I will personally see to it that you and your daughter don’t get a cent of my son’s money, no survivor benefits, nothing. And that’s my house you’re living in. You have thirty days to be out.”

“But where will we go?” Mama had asked. “How will we live?”

“You’ll think of something. You managed to trap my son into marrying you. I’m sure there is a market somewhere for your skill set.”

Tatia didn’t understand what Grandma meant, but she knew it made Mama cry.

“Mama, please don’t cry. You’re not by yourself – I’m here. The preacher said Daddy is in his father’s house. Maybe we can go live with him.”

Mama’s sobs gradually slowed down, and she finally spoke again, so quietly that Tatia almost couldn’t hear her.

“Maybe.” She was quiet for a minute or two. “Yes, maybe I can. You go on to bed now, honey. I’ll be in to kiss you goodnight in a few minutes.”

Clutching her bear to her chest, Tatia slowly went back to her room and climbed into bed. She lay very still, listening for Mama. She was half asleep when she finally heard footsteps headed toward the bathroom. She heard Mama open the medicine cabinet door and turn on the water. Tatia imagined her taking an aspirin – she did that sometimes when she drank a lot of that stuff. Then, she heard Mama coming toward her room. The door opened and Mama came over and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Are you still awake, Tatia.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Give me a hug, sweetheart.”

Tatia hugged her, and Mama squeezed her so tight she could hardly breathe. Then, she kissed her on top of the head and Tatia could feel Mama’s tears dripping onto her hair. She almost giggled, but then Mama began to whisper, almost like she was talking to herself.

“Tatia, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. The only good thing I ever did was bring you into this world, and now I can’t even take care of you. But you’re so beautiful, so special – they’ll grow to love you as much as I do. I miss you already.”

“But I’m right here, Mama.”

“Of course you are, my darling. I just hate to be away from you even when you’re asleep. I love you more than anything. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mama, I know – to the moon and back. And I love you, too.”

Mama kissed her one more time and then tucked her in. She walked to the door and paused. Without turning around she spoke again, so quietly Tatia wasn’t sure she heard right.

“I’m so sorry, Tatia. Good-bye.”

When Tatia woke up the next morning, the sun was peeking through the cracks between the blinds. She stretched and listened for the familiar morning sounds of Mama taking a shower or fixing breakfast, but she heard nothing. She strained to hear the talk show Mama watched every morning, but there was nothing but silence. She sniffed for the smell of coffee, but that was missing, too. Maybe Mama was still in bed with a headache from the stuff she drank. Tatia would have to be very quiet this morning.

She slipped out of bed, dragging her bear and her blanket with her. She opened the door of her room as quietly as she could and tip-toed down the hall.

“Mama?” she whispered.

There was no answer – Mama must still be in bed. She went into the living room and saw Mama lying on the couch like she was last night – one arm was covering her eyes and the other one was hanging off, touching the floor. She wasn’t holding the bottle, though. It was on the floor on its side with a little dribble of brown liquid forming a small puddle under its mouth. Tatia went over and carefully picked up the bottle, but she accidentally brushed Mama’s hand. She froze, afraid Mama would wake up and be mad, but she didn’t move. In fact, her hand was cold – really cold – and it felt kind of funny, not really like skin. Tatia put down the bottle and her bear and gently covered Mama with her blanket. Now she would get warm and feel better when she woke up. Tatia picked up her bear and laid him on Mama’s tummy. That was sure to make Mama smile when she woke up. Then, Tatia picked up the bottle and took it into the kitchen to throw it away.

She was getting hungry, so she pulled a juice box out of the refrigerator and a Pop Tart out of the cabinet. She sat down at the kitchen table to eat so she wouldn’t make a mess. When she was finished, she threw away her trash and went into her room to get dressed. She stayed there and played for a while, but she checked on Mama every once in a while to see if she was awake yet. She wasn’t. After a long while, Tatia was growing bored playing by herself, so she ventured all the way into the living room.

“Mama,” she whispered. When she got no response, she spoke a little louder. “Mama, it’s time to wake up.”

She put her hand on Mama’s cheek. Her face was really cold, and Tatia was getting a little scared. She patted Mama’s cheek, but nothing happened. Then, she laid her head on Mama’s chest. Sometimes she went to sleep that way at night while Mama watched TV. She liked the sound of Mama’s heart beating and of her breath going in and out. Now she heard nothing. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes, and she grabbed Mama’s shoulders and shook her gently.

“Mama, please wake up. I’m scared. Please wake up.”

She didn’t know what to do. Then she remembered what Mama taught her about the telephone.

“Tatia, if anything bad ever happens and you need help, just pick up the handset and hit this button that has a “1” on it. I have it programmed to automatically dial some nice people who will come and help you.”

Tatia, picked up the handset and pushed the button. In a minute she heard a nice lady talking.

“911. What’s your emergency, please?”

Tatia began to cry. “My mama won’t wake up, and she’s really cold.”

“What’s your name, sweetheart? And how old are you?”

“My name is Tatia and I’m five years old.”

“Is anyone else in the house with you?”

“No, just Mama.”

“Okay, Tatia. You did the right thing. Don’t hang up the phone. I’m sending someone to help you.”

The calm voice on the phone had a soothing effect on Tatia, and her tears began to dry.

“Tatia, is your door locked?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Can you unlock it?”

“If I stand on a stool.”

“Okay. Go get your stool and unlock the door so the helpers can get in.”

Tatia did as she was told. While she was putting the stool back, she heard sirens. Then, she went back and picked up the phone.

“Okay. I did it.”

“That’s great, Tatia. The helpers should be there any minute.”

Tatia took the phone and went back to the couch where she sat on the floor. Her bear had fallen off Mama’s chest, so she picked him up with her free hand and hugged him to her own chest.

“Mama,” she said quietly. “The helpers will be here in a minute. They’ll help you and make you warm.” Her tears were flowing again. “Dear God, please don’t let Mama be dead. Please don’t make her be in a box like Daddy.”

# # #

Want more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Read Preface and Chapter 1



Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts from the Decade!

Well, would you look at that! I made the Anaiah Press Top Ten Blog Posts List. Click on the link and check out #3!
Thanks to Anaiah Press for providing a forum for new and unknown authors!

Anaiah Press

As a year comes to an end, and a new one begins, we always like to look at what went well in the past. Now, after a decade, there’s some deep reflection being made. After scouring our blog and social media posts, we’ve come to find trends and popular posts.

Here’s a run down for 2019: We had 118 posts, incorporating a total of 65,157 words (Wow! That’s a whole book!). We’ve had the most likes on our posts more this year than any other year! (Yay!) Our comments are down, so we’d love to have a chat with you! Please comment away!

Overall, we have so many great posts between 2014 (opening year of our blog) – 2019 that we wanted to reshare our most popular writing tips blog posts from the last decade. If there’s something good, why not revisit it? We will share daily on social media…

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Life in the waiting room | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on October 15, 2019:

YuckDavid had an endoscopic examination of his upper GI tract last week. The doctor was concerned because of some recent weight fluctuations. She ordered the test in spite of our explanations that he had stepped on the scale wearing a jacket with a cell phone, wallet, and other weighty items in the pockets during one visit and a T-shirt the next time. So, Friday morning we left the house in the driving rain and made the trek to the VA in Dallas. The traffic was backed up, the parking lot was full except in the very back, and the day surgery was the building where we weren’t, but we made it within minutes of our scheduled arrival time.

David checked in, and I was sent to the waiting room while he was prepped for his procedure. After he had changed into a pair of khaki scrub pants and some over-sized hospital socks and the nurse had put an IV into his hand, I was allowed to visit with him for a few minutes. It was a simple procedure, but it was still hard to go back to the waiting room, leaving him in the hands of strangers. Still, the waiting room provided some interesting diversions while I waited. (more…)

Signed Paperbacks Available | by Linda Brendle

Banner CroppedIn this day of tablets and ebooks, I believe that many readers still prefer the experience of paper and ink. Several recent events gave me the chance to confirm that belief while meeting and getting to know some of those readers better. In a ten day period, I had a book signing at a local flower and gift shop, I attended a book club meeting where the first of my two novels was discussed, and I had a table in the exhibit building at our local county fair. Writing can be a lonely pursuit until the author moves out from behind her keyboard and interacts with the lives she touches. It was so much fun to talk with people about my life and theirs, and it was especially fulfilling to hear from those who had read my words and had been touched by them. And it was encouraging to meet some who were anxious for me to sign and sell them one or more of my books so they could read what I had to say next.

The most surprising incident during that time, though, didn’t happen at any of the events I mentioned. Instead it happened on Facebook. I received a message from a friend I met many years ago in a hospital in San Antonio. She was the chaplain, and David was in ICU with a concussion after doing a front flip over his windshield when his Harley came to a sudden stop. We haven’t seen each other since then, but we have kept in touch electronically. In her message she asked me how she could go about getting signed copies of all four of my books. We exchanged addresses and details, and she should have her books any day now.

It occurred to me that there may be others like my San Antonio friend who would like print copies of one or more of my books but would like something more personal than an Amazon purchase. So, I’m making a public offer: an autographed paperback of any of my books – or all of them – for $10 each plus $2 each for postage.

Memoirs :

A Long and Winding Road by Linda BrendleA Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos: The story of the hilarity and chaos and chaos that happen when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend seven weeks traveling across the southeastern U.S. in a forty-foot motor home.


Cover MLGMom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort: Mom’s goodbye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine. (This is the follow up to Winding Road – the rest of the story.)

Christian Fiction:

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim sizeTatia’s Tattoo: As a successful D.C. lawyer, Tatia’s mission in life is to destroy the sex trafficking trade in small-town America. She knows where to find it. She’s been there. Filled with tragedy, crime, redemption, and love, Tatia’s Tattoo is a story that exposes the sordid underbelly of small towns and shines a light of hope on how the evil might be defeated.

Fallen Angel Final Cover FrontFallen Angel Salvage (Tatia’s Story, Book #2): Tatia and Jesse have a perfect life in Chicago. Her testimony put Eric in prison in Texas twenty years ago. How could anything go wrong? An old black van. A missing child. Tatia and Jesse race through the city streets with a band of bikers while Johnny and Jade dig through the dark web and Detectives Nelson and Martin pound on doors. Will it be enough? Or will their daughter become another statistic?

Interested? Email me at lindabrendle@yahoo.com and we’ll work out the details. Payment can be made by check or PayPal.



Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Tales from the Rains County Fair | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 17, 2017:

Tennilles BoothMy table

For the second year in a row I shared a booth at the Rains County Fair with Tennille Case of Tennille’s Cookie Jar. Not only was I right next to all the delicious samples she put out, but I also had the advantage of overflow traffic. My book displays gave her customers something to look at while they waited in line, and she’s a big fan, so she directed them my way.

We had a great location, the same one we had last year. It was right next to the restrooms, so almost everyone who came to the Fair walked right by us at some point during the evening. Even if they didn’t stop, the steady stream of visitors made for great people watching and a nice collection of writing material. Here are a few of the random observations I collected while sitting behind a table, four hours a night for five nights. (more…)

Happy National Senior Citizen’s Day by Linda Brendle

Anaiah Press hosted me on their blog today – National Senior Citizens Day. When did this holiday begin, and what’s it all about?

Anaiah Press

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

What does it mean to be a senior citizen? An Internet search for the answer to this question turned up a number of answers, but nothing really definitive. Most sources agreed that a senior citizen is an older person; however, there was no agreement on one specific age at which one reaches this status. Even the government doesn’t have a single standard. Social Security benefits are available beginning at age 62, and Medicare eligibility begins at 65, but the “official” age of retirement according to the Social Office is 67.

To further complicate the issue, many business offer senior discounts – but the age requirement is anybody’s guess. McDonald’s offers Senior Coffee to guests 55 and older, most movies offer discounts to customers who have reach 60 to 62 years of age, and many restaurants offer discounts beginning anywhere from 55 to 62.

Senior citizen…

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BFOR BLOG BLITZ – Interview with Cozy Mystery Author Karen Musser Nortman

BFOR FB Banner

Today I’m taking part in the BFOR BLOG BLITZ and am sharing my interview with cozy mystery author Karen Nortman. Books for Older Readers (BFOR) is a group that was established in October 2017 to promote books with older protagonists and/or themes such as ‘second chances’ which tend to appeal to readers in mid-life or beyond. I will give you more information later along with the Facebook and website links, but right now I want to tell you about my special guest.

Head Shot Karen Musser NortmanKaren Musser Nortman, after 22 years as a secondary social studies teacher and 18 years as a test developer, returned to her childhood dream of writing mysteries. Her first series, The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries, sprouted from numerous camping trips in Iowa and through at least 24 other states. These mysteries center around a group of retirees who camp together and sometimes stumble over dead bodies. Six of the books have been designated IndieBRAG medallion honorees and three have been finalists in Chanticleer CLUE and Mystery and Mayhem contests. Most of the books are based on actual campgrounds.

Karen has two other series. The Time Travel Trailer series follows the adventures of Lynne McBriar who buys a vintage camper that turns out to be a time portal. The first in the series, by the same name, was the 2015 category winner in the Chanticleer Paranormal contest. The Mystery Sisters is a new series involving two seventy-something sisters who travel the country in a 1950 Studebaker, argue, annoy their relatives, and solve mysteries.

Karen has three children and eight grandchildren. She also loves reading, gardening, and knitting, and can recite the 99 counties of Iowa in alphabetical order.

Hi, Karen! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with me today. I’ve read most of your books and have really enjoyed them. Since your books are mostly based on places you’ve been, I feel like I know you. But I still have lots of questions, so let’s get started.

 Which came first, camping or writing?

 I’ve always loved to write but did not do so seriously until after I retired. We tent camped with our children when they were young and then, as they got busier, we got away from it. In 2006, we decided to get back into it but not sleeping on the ground, so we bought a used travel trailer and have been avid campers ever since.

As a camper myself, I know that the lifestyle can be addicting – as can writing! When did you publish your first book, and what inspired you to write it?

I received a Kindle for Christmas in 2010 and that spring was looking for a light mystery to download for a camping trip. I thought it would be fun to read a camping mystery but at that time there weren’t any.  I began to consider what a great setting campgrounds are for mysteries. You have a variety of characters—many of whom are strangers—but you go about your daily chores and recreation in close proximity. There are lots of mishaps and humorous incidents. Because many are strangers, things happen that could have a sinister explanation. For example, once some people were camped across from us and on Friday night had a big campfire. The next day their vehicle was gone and we didn’t see anyone for three days. Their trailer was still there when we left and we never found out what happened. It was likely a family medical emergency or perhaps broken water pipes at home or some other simple explanation. Or it could have been that a serial killer murdered them all and stole their truck. We never found out. Nature is also a factor that can create threatening situations.

So when I retired that summer I decided I would start a series involving a group of retired friends. I particularly wanted my characters to be typical sixty-somethings—not decrepit fussbudgets named Mabel and Gertrude. (Those names are from an older generation.)

I love how your imagination works! I have noticed that your books, at least the ones I have checked, are self-published. Have you always gone this route? If so, why?

Cover Bats and BonesWhen I finished my first book in 2012, Bats and Bones, I began looking for an agent. There was some interest and I was really excited when an agent in New York who handles several successful cozy series asked to see the full manuscript. After I sent it, I read that you need to allow an agent at least six months to look at a full manuscript; if they take you on, another year to find a publisher; and another year to actually get the book in print. I was 69 at the time—I was afraid that I might not live long enough to see my book published!

At the same time, I read quite a bit about the emerging self-publishing scene. I withdrew my manuscript from the agent and published my book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct and CreateSpace programs. That first one involved a pretty big learning curve but I have it down pretty well now.

I like the fact that I have complete control over my schedule, my covers, my pricing, and my book design. I worked for eighteen years for ACT, the testing company, where a typo or poorly worded question could result in a lawsuit, so I think I am a pretty good editor. We also formatted all of our tests for print so I had experience in that. Marketing is the big challenge but it is my understanding that, unless you are Stephen King or Louise Penny, you have to do your own marketing anyway.

So true! When you began to write, why did you settle on cozy mysteries as your genre of choice?

I have always loved mysteries, including police procedurals and thrillers, but my favorites early on were Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Later Martha Grimes and numerous cozy writers attracted me. Cozy mysteries are very character driven and I love good characters. In a series that’s especially important so that each book is like spending time with old friends. Sometimes I think I should put my efforts into more serious writing, but then I get a message from a reader, like the one who said my books were just the escape she needed during her mother’s Hospice care. That’s very gratifying.

Yes, knowing that your stories have touched someone is one of the best parts of being a writer. I began my writing with memoirs, so I wrote about my experiences. Have you ever experienced any of the mysteries you have written?

We have experienced some incidents that became the catalyst for a book. For example, The space Invaderwe were pulling our camper through New Mexico a couple of years ago when we were stopped in a roadblock. They were looking for two escaped convicts who they thought may have stowed away in a camper, car trunk, or pickup bed because there is nowhere in that part of New Mexico for anyone to hide along the road. Our camper had been locked since morning and they let us go on. But later I realized that sometimes we forget to lock the outside storage compartments and two of them were big enough for a person. Fortunately, we had no stowaways but the incident became the germ for The Space Invader.

I’ll bet you were more careful about locking those compartments after that! When you begin a project, what does your writing process look like?

to cache a killerMost of my books have centered around an event, location, and/or activity. The Frannie Shoemaker books include ones about biking, storytellers, county fairs, geocaching, snowstorms, New Mexico and the Michigan UP. Once I decide what the ‘theme’ is, I think about how a crime might be connected to that activity. Geocachers wander around in remote areas looking for hidden caches, so it stands to reason that they might also find a body. (To Cache a Killer) When we toured the Michigan UP, I was intrigued by the glass-bottom boat tours to view shipwrecks, but what if a dead body appeared in the viewing window (Real Actors, Not People)? In Foliage and Fatality, the second Mystery Sisters book, the sisters volunteer to help at a haunted house fund-raiser. What better place to hide a dead body?

Then when I know what the crime is, if I’m smart, I figure out a time line. How was the murder committed? What was the killer doing before and after? How can he/she be caught? If I don’t take the time to outline that and just start writing, I paint myself into a corner and have to rewrite.

And rewrites are not a writer’s favorite thing to do. Speaking of favorites, which has been your favorite series or character to write?

That’s like asking if I have a favorite child. Each series has been enjoyable for different reasons. Frannie and her friends are, I think, typical retirees. They have strong friendships, but not without some irritations. They have pet peeves and limitations. They have solid marriages and respect for each other. They also have long standing jokes and insults that just confirm their membership in the group.

The Time Travel Trailer series is special to me because I love history. The original book was intended as a stand alone and started because I have always wished I could have known my grandparents as two-year-olds or pre-teens or newlyweds. I enjoy researching the historical periods that the trailer travels to. The next one may be connected to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa in 1959—the night the music died. I grew up near there and the Surf was the hot spot in our lives.

The Mystery Sisters series is patterned after my grandmother and her sister-in-law who did travel the country in an old Studebaker and argued all of the time. So this way I get to travel with them.

The Mystery Sisters is your latest series of books. Have we seen the last of Frannie Shoemaker?

Double Dutch DeathAbsolutely not. I wanted to get three Mystery Sisters books out to establish the series, and I just finished the third, Double Dutch Death. I have already started the next Frannie, Corpse of Discovery. The location is based on Lewis and Clark State Park on the Missouri River in western Iowa. There is an annual celebration there of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (the Corps of Discovery) and it includes a fur trader reenactment. An event with hatchet throwing contests and knife makers sounds like it has lots of possibilities for a murder.

Wow! I can’t wait. Thanks so much for stopping by and giving us an inside look at Karen Nortman.

You can find Karen and her books at the links below:

Double Dutch Death 

Amazon Author Page




Books for Older Readers has a website where you can find lists of books and authors that will appeal to all ages but have a special attraction to those of us in middle age and beyond because of the age of the characters and/or the subject matter. The book lists feature short descriptions, book covers, and buy links. BFOR also has a Facebook Group where you can interact with other authors and readers who share your interests and concerns.





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