Tag Archives: Lazarus Barnhill

Your Truest Purpose For Existing by Pat Bertram

Once upon a time not so long ago, there was a mythical social networking site for creative types called “Gather.” I call the site mythical because it seemed uncanny and serendipitous the way so many kindred spirits migrated to the site, and also because the defunct site has disappeared into the myth of memory. Was it as special as we all seemed to think? It must have been because in its short history, it affected so many of us in a positive way. In fact, many of the people I have visited on my cross-country trip were people I met on Gather nine years ago, including fellow author Lazarus Barnhill.

Lazarus Barnhill is one of those folks who seem larger than life. Charming and charismatic, unbelievably intelligent and intuitive, and so busy he’s harder to catch hold of than a wisp of cloud. (I’m getting ridiculously eloquent here, but he tends to bring out the best — and worst — in people.)

Several years ago, I interviewed Lazarus for my blog (Pat Bertram And Lazarus Barnhill Discuss Writing as Destiny), but he, being the contrary sort of individual he is, turned the tables and interviewed me. The interview was almost embarrassingly intimate, though I don’t know why. Maybe because it was the first time we ever “talked” and he seemed interested in me at a time when my life was closing in on itself. Maybe because I was open and willing to answer his questions. Maybe because he said such insightful things about my books that I felt giddy. He seemed to see more in my works than I expected people to see, perhaps even more than I myself had seen. But that is the beauty of writing one’s truth. It has a way of making itself felt.

So what does this have to do with today’s blog post? Well, I had a chance to take a look at Barnhill’s newest book, Pastor Larsen and the Rat. The story is about Pastor Larsen, who, in the face of the drudgery, church politics and frustration that are the usual professional hazards of the ministry, is faced with a dangerous and intriguing complication — Ange. No one in Larsen’s close knit congregations knew of the existence of this woman, the daughter of a parishioner who appeared just in time for her mother’s funeral. For Larsen, Ange is more than mysterious. She is alluring, wise and astonishingly intuitive. . . . And then there is the issue of the large rat that seems to be taunting the members of his church.

This is a book that only Lazarus Barnhill could have written. A pastor turned author, Barnhill knows more than most people about what goes on behind the serene countenance of a church, but more than that, he has a talent for mixing the irreverent with the reverent, the salacious with the spiritual, the naughty with the nice.

I asked Lazarus if he were afraid people would find his book controversial. He said, “To a degree. Some will find it profane. I hope some find it insightful and hopeful. Those familiar with religious bodies — and with the way spirituality operates in human life — will not be able to deny it’s honesty — not the sex part, but the organized religion part, and the divine intervention part. Ultimately I hoped when I wrote it that non-religious people would read it for the naughty romance and gain some insight into how the holy is able to work in our midst despite all that religions do to prevent it; and that religious people would ‘force themselves’ to live with the titillation in order at last to read something truthful about their gatherings.”

A love of truth in literature seems to be something that Lazarus and I have in common. Although we want people to read our books for enjoyment, being entertaining isn’t our only reason for writing. We need to tell our truth. Lazarus goes beyond that, believing that “whatever force there is out there in creation (call it God, destiny, a Higher Power or whatever you want) actually wants you to write. When you write, you are fulfilling an essential aspect of your truest purpose for existing.”

Lucky for us, Lazarus Barnhill is fulfilling his destiny.

pastor larsen and the rat

Click here to read an Excerpt From PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT by Lazarus Barnhill

What are you waiting for? Click here to buy the ebook: Buy Pastor Larsen and the Rat on Kindle for $0.99 kindle.

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The Part Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn’t Play by Lazarus Barnhill

Philip Seymour HoffmanMy uncle was Ben Whitekiller. He was also Robert Vessey. Actually, of course, his name was Herbert — not Ben or Robert.

Herb was a peace officer in central Oklahoma and I grew up adoring him. As I became an adult and understood more of what it means to be a grown up, I began to see Herb in a clearer light, to have more of a circumspect understanding of his life. After he died in 2005, I wrote him in as two of the main characters in my police procedural, The Medicine People. Herb was the embodiment of Ben Whitekiller, the aging Native American, recovering alcoholic, who knows he has to come back to his little hometown to settle accounts from his misspent youth. Herb was also the essence of Robert Vessey, the whip-smart, jaded police lieutenant and investigator who never forgot what an encounter with Whitekiller had cost him. The resolution of the conflict between those two men was, in its way, my resolving of Herb’s legacy in my own heart.

So if you are like me, some of the characters in the books you write are conceived, developed and refined with a specific individual in mind — not always, but sometimes. And because that’s the case, I particularly mourned the death of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

When I created the fictional character Magnus Thorsen in my novel East Light, I tried to envision a tall, clever, shaggy-headed, blonde fellow. Thorsen is an artist, a complicated, high-achieving, substance abuser who is discontent with what he has made of his life. He lives on the North Carolina coast in a cottage, the third story of which is an art studio that faces the rising sun. When he decides to take his life, he goes to his favorite secluded beach, only to discover a terribly injured young woman, whose life he saves. Throughout the remainder of the book, Thorsen engages in a complicated dance with Lt. Dot Stipling, the African-American detective who figures out his suicidal intentions and needs to keep him alive at least long enough to prosecute the girl’s attackers. I always thought the ideal person to play the part of Magnus Thorsen—complex, determined, supremely artistic—would have been Hoffman.

So here is my homage to Philip Seymour Hoffman and the part he never played. The book, by the way, will coming out this summer from Second Wind:


Magnus opened the big glass doors onto the deck and slid open the screens.  He stepped out to the railing and looked down.  The tide was going out.  Down the beach someone was throwing tennis balls into the surf for a retriever to chase.  Twenty yards away, a gull was hanging nearly motionless in the air, waiting in case Magnus had food crumbs to throw.

“Forget it.  I’m not a tourist,” he muttered.

It was nearly thirty-five feet from where he stood to the dunes below.  Almost forty if he stood on top of the handrail.  When he first decided to kill himself, he thought about jumping from this upper deck, making it look like an accident.  Only, if he had been pretending that he didn’t mean to die, he couldn’t leave notes for his son and parents and lawyer and bookkeeper.  Then too, he might have survived the fall and been crippled by it.  He also thought about hanging himself from this railing.  The problem was that, if he didn’t break his neck, hanging would be slow and awful.  And no one in the family would want to live in the cottage.  And its worth on the real estate market would have diminished as well.

Where was the lieutenant, he wondered.  Turning from the water, he saw her walking around the room, looking at the canvases on the walls and easels.

“See anything you like?”

“They’re really very beautiful.”

“You think?”

She faced him.  “I can’t help but notice that they are all finished.”

“. . . Well most of them are fairly old.  I didn’t do any of these for customers.  I did them for myself, or to try a new technique, or to demonstrate something to someone.”

“Where are your ‘works in progress?’”

He shrugged.

“Did you run out of clients who wanted portraits done?”

“I have a whole stack of work over there on my desk.  I just haven’t started them yet.”

“Why haven’t you?”

Magnus took a drink of his coffee.  “Just waiting for my muse, I guess.”

She walked through the studio toward him.  “You know what I think?  I think you finished everything you were working on and didn’t start anything new because you intended to take your life.  Everything about this place and your actions before you stumbled onto Lisa Faucet reveals an intent to commit suicide.”

She stood beside his main drawing table, her hands on her hips.  It was a place, he noticed, where—with the sun streaming into the studio—the pure consistency of her complexion and the finely etched lines of her face appeared to glow with their own light.  And at that instant she didn’t seem to Magnus to be a police officer hounding him, but an exquisite countenance, begging to be captured on canvas.

“I have a friend who is a musician,” Magnus said.  “To him, the whole world is reducible to beat and melody.  If you’re a doctor, you view everything according to how it impacts a person’s health.  And if you’re a police officer, everything and everyone is suspicious.”

She smiled grimly.  “Mr. Thorsen, you can change the subject all you want.  You can have me follow you from one room of your house to another.  You can try to distract me with egg coffee and beautiful artwork.  But nothing changes the reality that you were going to kill yourself yesterday.”

Slowly he shook his head.  “That is strictly your assumption.”

The phone rang.

“Now what!” he exclaimed.  He looked at the little clock on the supply table.  “It’s just now 7:45!”  The phone rang again.  “How did I get so popular?”

She stared at him.  “Aren’t you going to answer it?”


“Might be the hospital.”

There was a third ring.

“No,” he said.  “The hospital has my cell number.  Nobody who has my home number would dare call me before 8 a.m.”

“Why’s that?”

There was a fourth ring.

“Because they know I’m painting.”

The answering machine, with a robotic voice, spoke, “Please leave a message after the tone.”

There was a protracted beeping sound and suddenly Grady’s angry words were amplified through the room: “Mag-man!  What’s this shit in today’s paper?  You better pick up.  I saw your name listed by a gun permit.  What the hell you need a gun for?  This has something to do with going down to Scotch Bonnet by yourself, don’t it?  You didn’t tell me nothing about no goddamn gun, son.  You better, by-god, be calling me back or I’m calling that hot police lady myself about this.  And you better, by-god, be at the meeting tonight.”  There was the sound of Grady abruptly slamming down the phone.

Magnus stared at the answering machine, refusing to look at her.  He didn’t know what to say, and he felt like a little boy caught in some naughty act.

“Hot police lady?”

He shook his head.  “That’s not what I called you.”

“So he is talking about me,” she said.  “I take it that’s you A.A. sponsor?”

“Well he was, up until a minute ago.”

“. . . You have a black sponsor?”
He tilted his head and looked at her.  “Yeah.  Why do you ask?”

“I don’t know.  Just surprised me.”

“Surprised him,” Magnus said, “when I told him that a black woman is Chief of Detectives. . . .  I told him he would have met you before I did, if he just hadn’t sobered up.”

She laughed.  She had a beautiful smile.  Somehow it was a relief to Magnus to see her smile.


Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday, The Medicine People, and Come Home to Me, Child (with Sally Jones).


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Caddo Creek by Lazarus Barnhill

So I’d like to introduce some folks to you and the best way, maybe, is for you to overhear them interacting. Here is an excerpt from my new novel, Caddo Creek (and I’ll tell you a little about it below). The folks in this passage are: Corral Walker, a graduate student studying botany at the University of Arkansas; Henry Louis Truett, IV (whom everyone calls “Four,” an Afghanistan War veteran who is also a student at the U of A; and Aunt Eleanor, Four’s lovely fifty-five-year-old aunt. In this vignette, Four has brought Corral to Eleanor’s home to introduce them and so that she can see a photograph of his great-grandmother, to whom she bears a striking resemblance:

Eleanor stopped in the sunny dining room, standing before a wall that apparently served as a family portrait gallery. Immediately before Corral just at eye level was an old black and white photograph. She leaned forward in amazement at what appeared to be an image of herself. The woman in the photo seemed a few years older than Corral and perhaps more petit. She wore a dress suited to the early 20th century and had long hair pinned close to her head. Her features, from the round, inquisitive eyes to the short, pert nose and oval face were virtually those of Corral Walker. She felt her hand rise slowly to the glass, then draw back.

“It’s my grandmother, my namesake. Eleanor.”

“We look so much alike.”

“Exactly alike to my eye. Eleanor was her given name, but she went by Lacey. Lacey Warren.”

“Is she—”

“She died long before I was born. She is sort of a mystery person. She married Grandpa Andy when she was twenty-six or so, but it’s like she just suddenly appeared out of nowhere on his mountain.”

“His mountain? Caddo Creek?”

“No, they lived in North Carolina, up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near a little town called Boone.”

Corral nodded. “I know about Boone. Appalachian State University is there.”

“Yes. Lacey and Andy had one child, my mother Elizabeth. And Lacey died of cancer when Mom was in her late teens.” She looked at her nephew. “I hope you two came hungry.”

He nodded. “We did, ma’am.”

Eleanor put her hands on his shoulders, physically moving him in the direction of the front door. “Well then, here’s what you need to do, son. Go down to the grocery store. Not the one at the bottom of the hill. I mean the one over by—”

“Townsend’s Market?”

“Yes. You’re a smart boy. Because?”

“Because they have Pillsbury flour?”

“Self-rising. Might as well get me two sacks. You don’t need any money do you?”

“Uh, no ma’am.”

“Good. Get going before we starve.”

Studying the other photos on the dining room wall, Corral tried—unsuccessfully—to suppress a smile. She heard the front door open and close, then felt Eleanor standing beside her again.

“He seems to do just what you tell him.”

“He’d better. That’s how he was raised. And he’d better hop to and show that same respect to you.”

“Actually he is very polite and respectful.”

“Good.” Eleanor tapped the glass on the portrait of her grandmother. “She was a prostitute.”

Corral turned to the older woman. “Excuse me?”

“Yep. She was working in a cathouse all right. That bit of information has been passed down from one woman to another. Supposedly none of the men in the family know it.”

“Really? She was a . . .”

“That’s what my momma told me.  And Lacey told her. Grandpa Andy was a World War I veteran. His first wife, Lib, died in childbirth. Sometime after that he stopped off at a place in the North Carolina piedmont, for a meal as the story goes, not realizing it was whorehouse. As I heard it, Lacey was drunk and passed out, and he kidnapped her.”

“Kidnapped her?”

“Um hmm. Threw her over his shoulder and just carried her out. The fellow who ran the place tried to stop him and Grandpa whipped out a big pistol and backed him off. Drove her right up his mountain and sobered her up. After that she fell in love with him.”

“That’s—that’s amazing.”

“I think it’s romantic as hell,” Eleanor said, her hands on her hips. “Makes me wet just thinking about it. Want to help me fix supper?”


Lacey Took a HolidayCaddo Creek is actually a sequel to my first published novel, Lacey Took a Holiday. This new volume is intended to be the second of a four novel set: The Mountain Woman Romance Series. The excerpt above, as I recall, was actually included a couple years ago in a Second Wind anthology. I look forward to having the novel in print this fall and I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

—Laz Barnhill


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Story Excerpt From “Second Helpings” Holiday Wedding by Lazarus Barnhill

Second Helpings
An Anthology of Holiday Recipes and
Short Stories
From Authors of
Second Wind Publishing

Second Helpings

A perfect gift for short story lovers and food connoisseurs!

From sweet childhood remembrances to fanciful solutions of family dramas to romantic relationships that begin–or end–during the holidays, Second Helpings is an anthology of stories and memories, but most especially of recipes. Our end-of-year celebrations are occasions that bring reunions with unforgettable feasts and that one special, treasured dish. At the end of each story, vignette, reminiscence, you’ll find a recipe or collection of recipes that will make your next holiday memorable as well.


Holiday Wedding
Lazarus Barnhill

It seemed to Richmond that, for a joyful occasion, the parson was too serious. Despite the pinched and put-upon expression he wore, however, the preacher was at least doing the job right.

“. . . and do you, Mary Ester Blank, take Jeremiah Freeman to be your husband, to have and hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health . . .”

In the midst of the minister’s droning, it occurred to Richmond that he could’ve cleaned out a bank twice in the time it took to get married once. He made certain, however, that his countenance bore no expression but a happy smile. At the length the religious prescriptions seemed to be coming to an end.

“. . . I pronounce that they are husband and wife together, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

The parson closed the little black book in this hand, the slightest bit of relief in his expression, and gazed at the lovely young couple before him, who returned his look with delighted anticipation. Richmond leaned close to the preacher’s ear and uttered a single word.

“Oh, my, of course,” the parson said. “How could I forget that? You may kiss the bride.”

As Jeremiah leaned forward to embrace his new wife, the two dozen people in Louisa Booe’s living room erupted with shouts and laughter. An irresistible smile on his face, Richmond stood for a time in silence watching the celebration: children and adults embracing one another, tears flowing, laughter rolling through them in waves.

The preacher drew close to him and said something. Richmond had to lean down to hear what he was saying.

“Are you through with me, then?”

“Sure, Parson. Let’s go out on the front porch.”

Outside in the descending twilight, it was much quieter.

“Well, Brother Meade, I’m pleased you changed your mind and agreed to delay your own Thanksgiving supper so you could come out to my mother’s and do this wedding.”

The minister glanced anxiously at the pistol Richmond had not taken off his hip—even for the ceremony. “To be completely honest, Mr. Booe, in a shotgun wedding it usually not the preacher who’s got a gun pointed at him.”


Second Helpings is available in print and all ebook formats from Second Wind Publishing.


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We’re Here to Help You Escape!

Second Wind Publishing would like to offer

an “Escape” service to Earth’s readers!

Click   ESCAPE    to jump into fictional realities created by

Second Wind authors.

Here’s a little taste:


Ghost Mountain by Nichole R Bennett

Moving is stressful enough, but when Cerri Baker moves with her family to the Black Hills of South Dakota, she begins seeing things—things like murder.
Named after a pre-Christian Celtic Goddess, Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and “hocus-pocus” her mother embraces. Once in the Black Hills, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as her spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man. As she struggles with her own destiny, Cerri must also convince the FBI that she is getting her information from another realm and not from first-hand knowledge of the murder.


False World by J J Dare

The second book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy continues where False Positive ends as Joe continues his mission to destroy those who have destroyed his life. As the world changes, Joe’s search for justice takes on a global urgency and he races to find answers before deadly answers find him. In this second installment of the Joe Daniels’ stories, the mystery and thrills are non-stop. Beginning in a secluded town in the middle of nowhere, it is not long before Joe is traveling across the country and, ultimately, across a collapsing world on his quest for vengeance.

The world is not what you see.
And neither is Joe


Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus M Barnhill

A desperate act of love creates a cascade of changes. Lacey, the most unlikely heroine, has been betrayed and abused by the men in her life. Andy has lost everyone he ever loved tragically. This 1920’s mountaintop romance breaks every rule.


She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?



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Interview with Lazarus Barnhill, Author of “The Medicine People”

What are your books about?

There are two answers to that question. First, I’m very fortunate because my publisher allows me to have books in more than one genre. Currently I have both romance and crime/mystery titles in print. Coming up soon, I hope to have several mainstream novels in print as well. The second answer is that my books are all about believable characters facing believable issues, forming believable relationships and rising up in inspiring, creative but believable ways.

How long do the ideas for your books take to develop?

Beside my bed I keep a spiral notebook that has the outlines for two dozen books in it. Whenever I get an idea for a book, I write down a tentative title (you call the baby something when it’s born, although in the long run it creates its own true name), the basic plot and the key characters. Over time I, as I brood about the stories, I’ll go back to my notebook and add more detail, alter the plot, rename the characters, etc. The stories continue to grow. In a way they “become ripe” over time—that is, I get to a point where I can’t help but start the actual writing process. Each ripens at its own pace. Caddo Creek, the sequel to Lacey Took a Holiday, chronologically takes place ninety years after the original story and was actually conceived after the “first sequel,” Lacey’s Child. I guess the bottom line to the question for me is that a story is a living thing: it develops within the author’s being and emerges when the time is right for it.

Who are the main characters of your stories? Do you have a favorite? Is part of yourself hidden in them?

All the characters in my stories are based at least in part on people I’ve known or encountered. I embellish or diminish aspects of them as suits the need of the narrative. In The Medicine People, Ben Whitekiller, the catalytic figure whose return to the little town where he is wanted for murder sets off an unstoppable chain of events, and Robert Vessey, the detective who hated and wanted to kill Whitekiller for decades, were actually both based upon the same person: my uncle Herb, an Oklahoma peace officer and Native American who wrestled throughout his life with his own demons. Lacey, the beautiful and feisty main character in Lacey Took a Holiday, was based upon a very spirited artist I knew many years ago. Andy Warren, Lacey’s antagonist and eventual love interest, was based upon a fellow I knew who was everything I’m not: tall, quiet, confident and patient. I have not yet written myself into a novel as a character. I’m not sure I’d give myself an even break. Because I try to breathe life into all of them, I can’t say that one is my favorite. I am partial to strong-willed, bright, determined female characters like Lacey, Deena in The Medicine People, Elaine in Come Home to Me Child and Corral in Caddo Creek. I like creating male characters who are independent and will go their own way, yet care enough about others to make sacrifices: Dan Hook and Johnny Whitekiller in The Medicine People, Andy Warren and Curly the saloonkeeper in Lacey Took a Holiday.

Do your books have “takeaways,” goals you intend your readers to grasp? How do you know when you’ve finished a novel?

The course of my life has exposed me to a lot of good and bad experiences, a lot of admirable and wicked people and a lot of wisdom and stupidity. I think, as we age, we discover many of the same truths in life, which is to say that a story can be true or it can be false: true in the sense that it resonates with what we learn as live; false in that the action, dialogue or development of the characters violates our sense of real life. For example, at the conclusion of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which is a great romance novel that breaks a lot of the genre’s rules, the reader is confronted with a huge irony: Scarlett discovers she loves Rhett just as Rhett decides he won’t squander anymore time trying to win her love. As melodramatic as the setting is, it’s a “true story”. So I would say my goals for my stories are 1) to write truth stuff (all the characters are believable, engaging and worth caring about) and 2) to end at a point where the specific themes of the story are resolved, but the reader is left wondering what happened to the characters next. At the end of The Medicine People, one of the characters has been shot, one jailed for attempted murder, one exonerated, a secret love has been revealed and two passionate but completely unconventional love affairs have begun. I want the end to be satisfying, but also compelling. Years ago I wrote a fantasy novella. It’s still the first piece of my fiction that I still consider worthwhile. I sent it to my mother who read it at one setting, called me up and demanded that I write a sequel. “Ah,” I thought, “I have arrived!”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was a child of four or five, Wednesday nights were “dollar nights” at the Riverside Drive In: a whole car load of people could see the movie for a buck. My parents and sister would sit in the front seat and I’d sit in the back. Periodically during the show, I would say what the character on the screen was about to say. Eventually my parents got really tired of that and forbade it. But something took root in me even back then. As an elementary school child I would constantly start stories that ended up being only a page or two long — and made me feel like a failure. When I was in sixth grade I lay awake one night and created a story that involved every child in my homeroom class. With the blessing of Miss Roach (and, no, I did not make up that name), I laboriously wrote the story down — probably thirty-five or forty pages — and was given permission on the last day of school to read it to the class. With about five pages left (I was just about to be machine gunned by the villains, having recovered the money they stole from the bank), the principal came in and said that we were free to go to the playground or to stay inside. The students immediately bolted — not one even asking how the story ended. I decided then to write the sort of stories that people would not be able to put down . . . and I’m still working on that.


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July 30th is World Friendship Day. Celebrate Love with a Romance from Second Wind!

July 30th is World Friendship Day. Love and friendship. Read books about friends, lovers and soul mates from Second Wind Publishing!


Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill

Lacey, the most unlikely heroine, has been betrayed and abused by the men in her life. Andy has lost everyone he ever loved tragically. This 1920’s mountaintop romance breaks every rule.
Also by Lazarus Barnhill: The Medicine People


Love Trumps Logic by Lucy Balch
Logical and scientific-minded Miss Fiona Fairmont thinks she’s found the perfect husband in “mad scientist” Lord Henry Feathersone – until Lord Albert Beaumont turns her heart and mind inside out.


A Love Out of Time by Mairead Walpole
Alden Scott and Olivia Vernon have yet to meet but they are connected in ways beyond their knowledge. Fate and an irritated goddess have plans for these two and nothing can stop the destiny of true soul mates.


Love Notes by Sherrie Hansen Decker

Hope Anderson’s heart is finally starting to thaw. Even Tommy Love’s is melting around the edges. They both want Rainbow Lake Lodge. Only one of them can have it. Who will win?
Also by Sherrie Decker: Merry Go Round, Night and Day and Stormy Weather



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“Come Home to Me Child” by Mike Simpson

Laz Barnhill has submitted another manuscript to Second Wind—a crime/mystery novel called Come Home to Me Child. Right now it’s in final editing and, in a couple months, his third title with us will be available. It’s about time. His romance (Lacey Took a Holiday) and his police procedural (The Medicine People) have been in print since 2008 and continue to sell. As with his earlier works, Come Home to Me Child does a good job of drawing the reader into a deceptively simple world full of interesting, believable characters who find themselves in remarkable predicaments; the characters develop along with the story and the resolution leaves the reader wanting more.

This novel tells the story of family that finds it necessary to move away from the Dallas Metroplex so Elaine, a wife and mother in her forties, can recuperate in a peaceful setting after a near-fatal aneurysm. Just after they move into their new house in the backwater town of Veil, Elaine discovers that years before a little girl was kidnapped out of the very bedroom in which her own young daughter now sleeps. Things start going “bump in the night”; or do they? Creepy neighbors intrude on her privacy; or do they? The unfolding story of the missing child reveals a miscarriage of justice; or does it? Elaine can’t be sure whether things are really happening in the world around her, or just within her injured mind.

What’s fundamentally different about this novel is that Laz has a co-author: his wife. She has chosen to write under the name “Sally Jones.” Why did they decide to collaborate on the novel and how did she come up with the pseudonym?

As he tells the story, two years ago they were traveling to the beach. Knowing they had hours of nighttime driving ahead and he was already a little sleepy, Laz badgered his wife into helping him outline a murder mystery in which his in-laws were the main characters. Since his wife has four sisters and four brothers-in-law—all with distinctive personalities—there was no shortage of vivid characters for the story. Over the course of four hours—and with lots of negotiations about the story, the heroes and villains, and the resolution—the novel was plotted out just about the time they got to Sunset Beach. And it was promptly forgotten. After all, it was just an exercise in staying awake on a long drive.

Months later during a Christmas visit with his in-laws, Laz’s wife mentioned to her parents the mystery they had dreamed up on the way to the beach. Immediately his mother-in-law insisted that they complete the story and submit it for publication. Fifteen months later, the story is at last complete—and the Barnhill’s are still married. The one concession Laz regrets making, he says, is that there is no sex in the book:

“I can bump off my in-laws, beat them up and throw them in jail. But the thought of writing about them having sex just creeped me out.”

So what about his wife’s alias? Years ago Laz and his wife (real name “Nancy”) were invited to a very prestigious gathering of corporate executives, the sort of folks who could make or break his budding career. At the opening of the banquet, the important guests paraded down a receiving line, introducing themselves to Laz and all the other young professionals in attendance. In those days his wife had bright red hair and that night she had worn a very attractive, attention getting yellow dress. At one point as the noteworthy movers-and-shakers were passing by, greeting his wife and then him, Laz noticed he was getting a number of strange looks. Turning to Nancy, he saw she had removed her wedding ring and was wearing a nametag that read: “Sally Jones.”

“When we started thinking of a penname for her, ‘Sally Jones’ instantly came to mind,” he said. “My wife is like a character in my novels—unpredictable and unforgettable. It’s always risky not keeping an eye on her.”

Maybe after Come Home to Me Child, Laz will have to write a novel in which “Sally Jones” is the main character.

–Mike Simpson


Filed under books, Lazarus Barnhill, Mike Simpson

Introducing the Authors of Second Wind Publishing

I thought a fun way to introduce the authors of Second Wind Publishing, LLC (or at least the ones who wanted to be introduced) would be to have them answer three simple questions so you can see how different authors perceive themselves and their writing. The questions:

1. What is writing like for you?
2. What is the most thrilling thing about getting published?
3. What is the most humbling thing about getting published?

Nancy A. Niles, author of Vendetta:

1. Writing is something that I can’t not do. It’s my best friend, sometimes a pain in the neck, but most times just something that I need to do for my own peace of mind.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the encouragement it has given me to keep writing and keep allowing myself to express more freely and deeper. I think all those rejection slips had an effect on me and now being published is having a strengthening and very positive effect on my writing.

3. The most humbling thing about getting published is knowing that for a few hours the people who read my novel will be taken away from their problems and be in my world. It humbles me to know that for just a short time I can give them a little escape from their troubles. It is quite a blessing.

Laura S. Wharton, author of The Pirate’s Bastard:

1. Writing is like exercise. Sometimes, it’s really hard to get up at 4:00 in the morning to begin writing…the warm covers are oh so snuggly. Other times, the adrenalin rush about an aspect of the story-in-process surging through me has me up at 3:00, sitting still for three hours, and then reluctantly stopping so I can prepare myself and family for the work/school day ahead. Like exercise, it has to be done nearly every day to accomplish anything close to completion.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is reading reviews from unknown readers – and seeing that they really loved my story.

3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing typos after publication of what I thought was an error-free book.

Nichole R. Bennett, author of Ghost Mountain:

1. Writing is in my blood. I don’t mean that I come from a long line of authors, because I don’t. But I have to write. I have to get those words out of my body and onto paper. Some days those words flow and there is no stopping them. Other days I struggle over each and every letter. Either way, writing is something I have to do. Just like eating or breathing.

2. The most thrilling thing is knowing that I am living my dream. Yes, it can be hard, but this is what I want to do and I’m doing it. How many people can truly say they get to live their dream?
3. I’m not sure there’s a humbling moment for me. I knew going in that writing would take some thick skin and hard work. I knew not everyone would like my work or appreciate the time and energy that it took to get where I am. That’s okay. I’m just grateful for the opportunities I have had and that there are people who do like it!

J. Conrad Guest, author of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings and One Hot January:

1. I haven’t found anything that provides the level of satisfaction writing provides me—the highs of crafting a perfect sentence, of self-discovery and exploring the universal themes of love and loss, dying and death, salvation, redemption, and keeping my parents alive and making them proud.

2. As writers, I think we all believe our work is the greatest since Hemingway, and seeing our work in print is affirmation, a thrill, that our work has merit—even if it isn’t really as good as Hemingway.

3. I find nothing humbling about getting published (I write with publication in mind), save for the process. By the time I receive my first proof copy, I’ve gone over my manuscript a dozen times or more and have probably a half-dozen drafts. An editor has gone over it, found several typos I’ve missed, and made suggestions for changes—some with which I agree, but most I discard. So I find it maddening and, yes, humbling, when I start reading my proof copy and find ways to improve the narrative, to rewrite a passage and, worst of all, I find a typo! I’m a perfectionist, so, yes, it’s humbling to learn I still can improve upon the process.

Eric Beetner, co-author of One Too Many Blows to the Head and Borrowed Trouble

1. Writing is lonely and tiring. Even writing as a part of a team like I do with Jennifer is still lonesome. We live on opposite coasts and only communicate through email. I never show anything to anyone for critique. Never let early drafts out to the public. So having her around is also an act of real trust. We show each other our naked first drafts and still expect that we’ll respect each other in the morning.

2. I find that it is too easy to only hear from a friendly audience of family and friends so the biggest thrill for me is when a total stranger says or writes something good about my writing. I know it is genuine. Being published lets that person have exposure to my work and find something in it that resonates or entertains. That’s why we’re here, right?

3. Oh, brother, what hasn’t been? I’ve had signings at book stores I respect (and where I shop) I’ve been in panel discussions alongside authors I admire. I’ve met writers as an equal – a fellow published author, not just a fan. All that has made me feel grateful beyond words.

DCP_0851-136x150Lazarus Barnhill, author of The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday:

1. A few years ago I came back to writing fiction after a self-imposed twelve-year period during which I did not write, and found about twenty ideas of books rattling around in my head. My first official act was to get a notebook and list the novels, outlining them to the degree they had “marinated” in my imagination. For me, writing is getting out of the way and allowing those stories that germinated so long ago to take root, flower and bear fruit.

2. The thrill comes from somebody you don’t personally know buying a book, or seeking you out intentionally at a book signing. It’s also thrilling when someone asks you a question about your story in such a way that you know they have read it with comprehension.

3. A couple things strike me right away. First is the praise I often get from my colleagues. When another writer whose work I admire compliments my work in a way that reveals I’ve accomplished precisely what I set out to do in the story—that is humble. The second thing is when people I know hunt me down and pester me until I get them a copy of one of my books. And sign it to them personally. I’m not accustomed to adulation.

lucy_balch-113x151Lucy Balch, author of Love Trumps Logic:

1. Writing is like I’m in a time machine. I can work for hours on a story and it always feels like much less time.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the knowledge that, finally, I’ll have something to show for the five years I’ve put into this obsession. Maybe I haven’t been selfishly squandering huge amounts of time?!

3.The most humbling thing about getting published is the realization that so many good writers have not yet been given the opportunity to publish. Is my book worthy of the privilege? As an unpublished author, I can always tell myself that my book will be well received when given the chance. The reality might be different. I hope not, but it’s a possibility, and once a book bombs there is no going back to the fantasy of it doing well.

jwcomputercatmail2-133x157Juliet Waldron, author of Hand-Me-Down Bride:

1. I write historicals, so writing for me is like entering a time portal—or, sometimes, like stepping out of Dr. Who’s callbox after accidentally pushing the wrong button. I have an idea of what may be there when I first look around, but I often find the world I’ve entered to be surprisingly different from my preconceptions.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting/being published is having someone you don’t know leave a message or write a review that totally “gets” the book. Shows I wasn’t as off-base as I sometimes—in those dark 3 a.m. moments—imagined.

3) The most humbling thing about getting/being published is that we have so much competition, and that there is a great deal of good writing out there. After publication there is the (IMO) far less agreeable marketing to do. The playful creation is now complete.

TracyB_3-134x150Claire Collins, author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny:

1. For me, writing is a journey. I don’t always know the final destination until I start traveling, but it’s always a rewarding trip.

2. The most thrilling thing about being published is when people read what I’ve written and they like it. I write for myself because writing is almost a compulsion for me. Readers enjoying my writing is a bonus.

3. The most humbling thing? All of the work it takes to get the books out and maintain a normal life while still trying to write. I realized pretty quick that I wasn’t superwoman. I’m still trying, but someone keeps standing on my cape.

mickeypic_1_-124x149Mickey Hoffman, author of School of Lies:

1. For me, writing is like being in that space just after you woke up from a dream but you only remember half of the dream and you spend all your waking moments trying to flesh it out.

2. I had some stories to tell and now I feel like they’ll be heard. And it really is thrilling. I feel like I’m white water rafting and I don’t need a boat!

3. I’ll be awed that anyone would take the time to read what I’ve written when they could be doing something more valuable with their time.

Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford, author of Staccato and Snare:

1. I am an entertainer. I don’t write for a cause or to pose my own thoughts or impressions on issues. My only function is to provide a suspense-filled, exciting ride the reader won’t want to stop until they reach the very last word.

2. The most thrilling thing about being published is seeing the words I’ve worked so diligently to craft actually in print. If what I present happens to be worthy enough for readers to tell others about Staccato, that’s all I could ask for.

3. Everything about being published is humbling to me. That readers would seek out Staccato, then take the time to escape from their lives for a while, makes me more grateful than anyone could possibly know.

Sherrie_-_book_2-120x154Sherrie Hansen Decker, author of Night and Day, Stormy Weather, and Water Lily:

1. For me, writing is like a dream vacation – a chance to escape the realities of my everyday life and travel to some faraway world where I can see the sights and meet new people.

2. For years, I wrote and wrote, wondering if anyone would ever read my words. What a wonderful feeling to be writing for readers who are eagerly awaiting my next release!

3. Every time I think I have a perfect draft, I find more errors glaring out from the pages of my proof. Very humbling . . .

Norm2-140x151Norm Brown, author of The Carpet Ride:

1. As a retired computer programmer, I see a lot of similarities between writing a novel and creating a complex software program. Both processes require an enormous attention to detail. All the little parts have to tie together in a logical way and a good flow is critical. And it’s hard work to get all the “bugs” out of a book, too.

2. The most thrilling thing for me was pulling the first copy of my book out of the box and holding it in my hands. It was exciting to see something that I actually created.

3. The most humbling thing for me about being published was discovering how much I have to learn about promoting my book. I’m still learning.

biopicsmall-136x139Jerrica Knight-Catania, author of A Gentleman Never Tells:

1. Writing for me depends on the day. Some days it’s the most wonderful romp through my dream land and other days it’s like getting a root canal.

2. Knowing that someone else believes in your work enough to put it in print is just about the most thrilling feeling. It’s great to hear friends and family say how much they enjoyed my work, but to have it validated by professionals is a whole ‘nother ball game!

3. I’m not sure I’ve been humbled at all! Haha! But I’ve never really had unrealistic expectations of myself or my work. . . . I’m prepared to correct mistakes and make cuts/edits as needed. I’m just grateful every day for the opportunities I’ve been given.

Lindlae_Parish_photo-129x151Dellani Oakes, Author of Indian Summer and Lone Wolf:

1. Writing is like a discovery process. I start with a beginning line, an idea or even just a character’s name and watch as the characters lead me where they want me to go.

2. I loved the fact that I finally was validated. Someone did think I was worth publishing and I wasn’t just “Wasting time with all that writing.”

3. Humbling? Wow, I think the most humbling – perhaps humiliating – step in the publishing process is all the rejection you get until someone finally says “Yes, we want you!”

Margay_touch_up-129x150Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul:

1. For me, writing is like creating a baby. There is the conception (what a wonderful idea!), the writing/rewriting period (gestation, anyone?) and the birth (I can’t believe it’s finally here!). And then you nurture it for the next couple of years as you slowly introduce it to the public – and hope they don’t think it’s an ugly baby.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the sense of accomplishment when you see it in print for the first time and you discover that people actually like it!

3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing the book in print for the first time and realizing that all of those years of struggling, writing, rewriting, submitting – all boil down to this one little book that you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Chris2-132x150Christine Husom, author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River:

1. Writing is multi-faceted for me. It is a joy, but also pretty hard work at times. I do much of my writing in my mind and when I finally sit down to get it on paper, it often comes out differently. I spend more time mentally forming plots and picturing scenes than I do writing them. I love having a whole day here and there to sit at my computer and concentrate on writing. If I have problems with a scene, I skip ahead to the next one so I don’t get frustrated.

2. The most thrilling thing about being published is getting my books out of my house and into readers’ hands–hoping people get some enjoyment reading them.

3. The most humbling thing about getting published is seeing mistakes and typos in what I thought was an error-free manuscript!

Amy_12_1-113x151Amy De Trempe, author of Loving Lydia and Pure is the Heart:

1. Writing for me is like unmapped journey, I never know what turns, obstacles or excitement is about to unfold.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is seeing my name on a book cover.

3. The most humbling thing about getting published is finding out how supportive and happy my friends and family really are for me.

maggiemed-138x150Mairead Walpole, author of A Love Out of Time:

1. In some ways, writing is a form of therapy. Not from a “work out my issues” standpoint, but rather it allows me to escape from the day to day stresses of the world. I can let the creative, sometimes a little off-beat, imaginative part of my soul off the leash and let it run. Some of my very early writing did dip into the realm of “working out my issues” and those stories will never see the light of day!

2. Can I channel my inner Sallie Fields and run around saying, “They liked it, they really liked it…”? No? Darn. Seriously, I think it is the whole – I did this – aspect. Someone read the book and thought it was worth publishing. That is pretty cool no matter how you cut it.

3. Opening yourself up to criticism, being vulnerable. Sure, you know that not everyone is going to love your book, and intellectually you know that some people will hate it and think you are a hack, but when someone actually expresses that to you it is a whole new experience. It can be very humbling.

IMG_4132-use-115x154Suzette Vaughn, author of Badeaux Knights, Mortals, Gods, and a Muse, and Finding Madelyn:

1. I’m like a humming bird on too much caffine. I write in waves. When the wave hits I can put out several thousand words in an unbelievably small amount of time. Then when I’m not in humming bird mode I edit.

2. The most thrilling is probably the fact that there are people out there that I don’t know that have read my book and liked it. I had the pleasure a few times of meeting them and there is some twinkle in their eye that is amazing.

3. My son is always humbling. I recieved my proofs in the mail and my then seven year old son didn’t fully understand what it meant that I’d written a book. He flips through the pages looking for hand-writting. “I get in trouble when I write in books.”

jjdare-139x150JJ Dare, author of False Positive and False World:

1. Writing is like being in a triathlon for me. I power write for days or weeks at a time, then crash for awhile with the help of Tylenol and chocolate. Writing is a scary, exciting roller-coaster. It is exhilarating and draining, and Iwouldn’t do it any other way.

2. The most thrilling thing about getting published is the very act of being published! Something I wrote is out there, available for anyone to read. Holding the hard copy of my book in my hands gives me the good shivers. The other thrill is the pride in my family’s voices when they introduce me as “The Writer.”

3. The most humbling thing is feeling responsible for the places I take my readers. During the time they’re walking with and living the lives of the characters in my book, my readers are taking the same roller-coaster ride I took to write the

pat-135x150Pat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I:

1. For me, writing is like the world’s longest crossword puzzle, one that takes a year to complete. I like playing with words, finding their rhythm, and getting them to behave the way I want. I like being able to take those words and create ideas, characters, and emotions.

2. Someday perhaps, I will find the thrill of being published, but to be honest it was anti-climatic. I am more thrilled at the thought of what the future might bring now that my books have been published.

3. I had no intention of answering these questions. After all, I was the one who collated all these mini interviews, but a fellow author said, “This is your party, too. People will tune in because of you. They want to know more about YOU. Don’t cheat your fans and followers.” Now that’s humbling.

Click here to read the first chapters of all Second Wind novels: The Exciting Worlds of Second Wind Books

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Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with eight other authors from Second Wind Publishing — writing a novel online.  We take turns writing chapters, and each of us writes from the point of view of a character we created. The story begins with a little girl’s body being found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end! Here is an excerpt from one of my chapters to entice you to come join the fun. You can find what we have written so far by clicking here: Rubicon Ranch.

“Look I know you’re dressed for the desert and everything,” Bryan said, “but I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to sit in the unit here for a minute or two and enjoy the air conditioning while I talk to my deputies.”

He could tell she was thinking over his request carefully, that Melanie didn’t quite trust him. She also didn’t act like someone who had just killed a child and was trying to cover it up, although—he judged—she might be clever enough to do just that.

“Well if I have to wait,” she said, “I guess I’m better off in here than out in hundred degree weather.”

Bryan opened the driver’s door. “One hundred and three degrees,” he corrected.

Frio and Midget were standing within a few feet of the discarded TV, as if to make sure the child inside did not get out and skip away. Midget paid less attention to the crime scene than the scrub brush and mounds of rock and dirt around him.

“Do we know who this was?” the sheriff asked as he joined them.

“No,” Frio said. “If she’s from this housing development, it won’t be hard to find out. Not too many girls her age up here.”

“They don’t know she’s gone,” Midget offered in his falsetto. “Otherwise they would have reported her missing before Flower Child over there found her.”

“Yeah, unless they killed her.” He glanced back to his Navigator. Melanie was staring at them. “So this Melanie Gray. More to her than meets the eye, you think?”

“Obviously,” Frio replied. “With all those clothes she wears, almost nothing meets the eye.”

“Yeah.” He turned back toward the TV. “I would totally discount her as being involved in any way, except for one thing. From the very first, she talked about this as if it’s a murder.”

Midget looked down at him. “You think it’s not a murder?”

He shrugged. “What is she—eight, nine-years-old? She sneaks out at night after bedtime and loses her way. No one notices she’s gone. She gets lost. She gets dehydrated. She finds the TV console and decides to sit it in for shelter. Maybe she dies of exposure. Or maybe one of those green rattlers around here bit her. Since no one could hear her crying for help, she crawled in the TV and the venom got her.” He looked up at Midget, who was gazing around them. “You don’t like snakes, do you?”

“Do you?”

He chuckled. “So let’s proceed as if this is a wrongful death investigation. What do we need to do, Frio?”

She sighed. “Well, I’ve already called for the coroner and the bus. Midget and I will cordon off this area with tape and protect the scene as much as possible. We need to figure out who the little girl is and notify her parents.”

“What if they’re dead too?” Midget asked.


Lazarus Barnhill is the author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under fiction, internet, Lazarus Barnhill, writing