Artisans & Outlaws We Love

This page is dedicated to artisans & outlaws
who inspire me—people who stretch the boundaries 
of creativity with their originality, craftsmanship, 
or simply the unique way they lead their lives. 
I hope within the interviews & profiles 
featured here that you'll discover some inspiration, too.

~The Heart Hears Whispers in the Wind~

It's an enormous pleasure for me to introduce the brilliant Lori J. Fitzgerald, a lyrical author of Arthurian fantasy romance who casts an enchanting spell on all who read her works. In the following interview, we take a glimpse behind her magical curtain to see how she creates her intriguing stories & what ignites her passion for writing. You can find her books on Amazon/Kindle at

You have a Master's Degree in Medieval Literature, right? Did you secretly always perceive yourself as writing Arthurian fantasy romance one day, or did you picture yourself as more of a teacher or a scholar in the future? 

I have a Master's in English, but specialized in medieval literature, so I've written my fair share of scholarly works on the subject. My Bachelor's thesis focused on the metamorphosis of King Arthur in five works of medieval literature. The basic tenet was that as the landscape of the medieval mind and society changed, the character of King Arthur also transformed from a "warrior-king" to a "philosopher-king." My Master's thesis analyzed the Knights of the Round Table (notably Parsifal and Lancelot) as imperfect quest heroes in three works of medieval literature. 

I always loved reading and writing fantasy. But in college I began to focus more on establishing my teaching career, so writing fell by the wayside. I taught middle school English for 11 years before I became a "stay-at-home" mom. I absolutely loved teaching; I wanted my students to love and appreciate literature as much as I did, and I wanted them to master how to write effectively and enjoy expressing themselves through creative writing. I also wanted them to learn how to be comfortable with public speaking, so as part of that I read The Princess Bride to them for 15 minutes after lunch and before dismissal every day...actually, it was more performance literature, complete with voices! Before I rediscovered writing as a second career, I was planning to eventually go back for my PhD and teach college English once my children were older (which I may still do in the future). 

What books or media influenced you to want to study Medieval Literature? And what is your favorite work of that time period?

My first real Arthurian fantasy was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. My dad bought me a beautiful navy bound copy in high school, and I remember reading it one night when I couldn't sleep because I had terrible pain from an ear infection. It's a huge tome, so it took me more than one night to finish, but I was so lost in the world of Avalon that I forgot my pain. 

I lurked a lot around the quiet third floor of my college library, and that's where I found The Mabinogion on a shelf in a little corner. Or should I say it found me? It's a collection of Welsh myths that influenced the Arthurian legends. I went on to read every book about the Celts on that shelf in my spare time. 

But I was bound for life by the first medieval lit class I took with my brilliant, dynamic professor, Dr. Margaret Jennings. It was a course solely on Chaucer, whom we read in Middle English! The beauty of the language struck me, and fascination for the time period quickly embedded into my soul.  I took many classes with Dr. Jennings, and she became my mentor and thesis advisor. The Wood & Stone Series is dedicated to her and to my alma mater, St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn.

Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur is my favorite as the definitive work of Arthurian literature. I also love Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, which is a story of the Grail Quest. (It inspired Wagner's opera.) I remember reading this in a verse translation and the profound symbolism of the story, especially the part with the Fisher King, resonated so strongly within me. My life has been greatly influenced by quest themes: the importance of striving for a goal, of always doing your best, of trying to stay true to who you really are, which is the medieval value of "trouthe," or integrity. I tried to pass the value of questing onto my students as well. 

When did you start writing stories of your own? And when did you summon the courage to publish your Arthurian tales for a contemporary & commercial audience? 

I started writing stories in 8th grade, and by college I had two binders filled with stories, poems, and world-building. They are my source within the sacred well; when I decided to write again, it was there, to my younger self, that I went first. 

Here is the poem fragment, the egg from which The Dragon's Message was hatched (I don't remember how old I was when I wrote this):

A dragon passed overhead
And exhaled
Flaming the sky with red and gold bands
Burnishing it with metallic drops
Leaving its mark for me to see
A signal, a reminder
Not of itself, gone now
But of the fire in you
That brands my soul every time you look at me
And makes my lips burn. 

My courage to publish was, someone you know well. I wrote about this event in my very first blog post:

Synchronicity prompted this.  I know it seems silly, but the catalyst really was the fantasy drama Once Upon a Time. It's the only TV show to enthrall me like my favorite books have and inspire me to analysis and discussion.  In my quest to connect with people who shared my obsession (haha), I joined twitter and a fan website. Upon reading a fabulous cast member interview, I tweeted the interviewer, Diane J. Reed, who is a published author of the novel Twixt.  As I read interviews in which she described her writing process and then I tore through the fan fiction on the website, I begin to feel a glimmer of possibility that I could, at this stage in my life, revisit the lands of my mind and bring them out on paper again.  But the turning point was when Diane encouraged me directly, replying to a comment I made about her interview on author Rachel Kall's Blog: "I truly believe that if such a yearning is within you, then that's your soul's way of telling you the dream is within reach.  Artistic hunger is a sacred fire.  And if you honor it, then the universe will open up a way for you." I read this and sobbed.  I realized that this chain of events was caused by an otherworldly presence trying to get back in touch with me, so I could get back in touch with myself: the muses granted me an epiphany. I sobbed, and I felt that creative fire rise up in me again.  I was distracted by the longing to write.

One of the things I love about your novellas The Dragon's Message & Love Lies Bleeding is that although they take place in an Arthurian, medievalesque world, complete with damsels, knights, and members of royal courts, they're very accessible to a wide range of contemporary, commercial readers who love fantasy and paranormal elements as well as romance. Is that something you intentionally designed when you wrote these works? For them to appeal to modern readers? Or has your popularity surprised you? People are raving about these novellas! 

Well, thank you, Diane! The wonderful response to my stories has been thrilling. Honestly, I believe that imagination is a realm unto itself. As much as the wand chooses the wizard, the story chooses the author. I am only writing the plot that the characters have urged me to write, crafting my words in a way to do the story's themes and atmosphere justice as I bring that imaginative world into ours. And if I can nourish my readers imaginations or inspire them in any way through my stories, as other authors have done for me, then I will feel as fulfilled as I did when I was teaching. 

If YOU could go back in time to any period, would it be the medieval era, or some other time? And what role or occupation would you love to have in life? 

Oh! Definitely the medieval period...I must have lived there in a past life! I think I would be a player on a pageant wagon. 

How hard is it to write your novellas with medieval historical accuracy? Is that something you strive for? Or because you write works of fantasy, do you give yourself more leeway of the imagination to invent unusual costumes, social roles, or political relationships? 

There is more of a leeway because it is fantasy and not historical fiction, but I try to keep the medieval atmosphere as much as possible, because it is a place that I am comfortable in and passionate about. In Love Lies Bleeding, Aislin basically lives on a fief, although I don't use that word, but it is the same concept: she and her father have to pay a "rent" for the land that their farm is on to the lord of the manor, who basically owns the entire village area. In Songs Within Stone, Wood & Stone Part 2, which will be available for pre-order on the Summer Solstice 2015, the main character is an apprentice mason, so I use the concept of a guild. And in The Dragon's Message I use a lot of chivalric conventions, such as the symbolism on Sir Gwydion's shield and the value of "trouthe." I also infuse a lot of Celtic mythology into my medieval setting in the Wood & Stone Series, so that lends the element of magic and the Otherworld to my writing also. 

If you could pluck a few actors or actresses to star in the movie treatment of your novellas, who might be some favorites? 

That's a fun question! For Love Lies Bleeding I think Jennifer Connelly would be fantastic as Aislin. She's got that long dark hair, like a "raven's wing" as Kern puts it. (Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies.) Hmmm, Kern...maybe Sebastian Stan, with his hair long? Or Jason Momoa...his voice gives me the shivers. I'm not good at this! I need suggestions!

Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to take the plunge and start writing? Anything that you've learned along the way that might be helpful?

Do it. Make the time for it. Your house may be a little more dusty than usual, but your soul will be glittering. Just get the story down first, so it doesn't dissipate into the ether. Don't worry about how it sounds or mistakes or the words you are using. Don't worry about spelling or sentence structure. Tell if you can't show. This is your first draft, and it's just for YOU. I never show a first draft to anyone. It's mine, precioussss. Get the story down first and worry about the craft later.

After you have revised and molded the story into something artistic, and you are satisfied that you absolutely can't do anything more with it, your well is dry, then send it out to beta readers that you trust, who are readers of your genre. They will see what you don't. Self-doubt is part of being a writer. Some days you will feel it more than others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your story. Believe in imagination. Just BELIEVE. And magic will happen!

Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own, are copyrighted by an author & used with permission, or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of popular social networks like tumblr, facebook or pinterest. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately!


Sweet Escapes

Oh, to go back in time when life was simpler! Think it's not possible? Well, anyone who loves to visit the beauty & grandeur of central Colorado to ski or mountain bike knows that you CAN revisit the past by stopping by an enchanting shop off Highway 24 in Buena Vista called Stedman's. There, you'll find a charming store, tucked inside an unassuming Shell gas station (aren't magical places always found where you least expect them?) with the most beautiful view imaginable. Yet what's inside will leave you really drooling...

Within Stedman's vintage-decorated walls, you'll discover every kind of old-fashioned candy brand you can think of, the kinds that your grandpa probably used to talk about. Marvelous confections like Black Cow, SloPoke & the ever popular Goo Goo Clusters--many of which can't be found anymore in chain grocery stores.  My children had a ball picking out & trying these fun treats of the past, only to have their father exclaim "I remember folks on the farm raving about this brand of candy!"

It requires a true candy connoisseur & lover of retro-American culture to know about all these vintage varieties, and to take the trouble to special order & stock each one in a store, which is why I tip my hat in the Artisans & Outlaws We Love section of my blog to Mark & Tacy Lewis, the owners of Stedman's. It doesn't hurt that they also offer gourmet homemade fudge for weary travelers, which you can order in quantities of up to five pounds each (for emergencies, of course! ; )

But what's this--candy cigarettes? Weren't those outlawed by the surgeon general in the 1970s or something? See, this is proof to me that Stedman's may indeed be a magical time portal, because they even stocked the kinds of cigarette gum brands my mother used to let me chew on as a child (politically incorrect or not!). Believe me, I thought I was soooo cool...

And that's the magic of Stedman's--it's the kind of place that conjures up the tastes & memories of a bygone era, evoking everything from nineteenth-century general stores to 1950s fountains shops, so that we can still savor what that time period might have been like. And if you happen to be thirsty, Stedman's literally offers the "creme de la creme": over 250 flavors of bottled sodas (including cream soda, my favorite!). Many of them are handcrafted in small batches by micro-breweries all around the country (insert my gasp here). Now this is the moment I knew I'd stumbled upon heaven--when I gazed at their large wall of root beers, sarsaparillas, ginger ales, orange fizzies, butterscotch beer, and a whole host of fountain drinks I'd never heard of before. 

Which one did I choose? Why, Swamp Pop, of course! A praline cream soda that hails from Ponchatoula Louisiana (if that doesn't sound like a magical place, I don't know what does ; ). And I have to tell you, this fine elixir did not disappoint. The moment it touched my tongue, I was transported to fountain drink ecstasy. 

So if you ever take a family vacation to the central mountain region of Colorado, be sure to stop by Stedman's in Buena Vista to wet your whistle. You just might find yourself humming a delightful tune from the past...

You can visit Stedman's on Facebook at or online at 

~ You CAN Go Home Again ~

I'm SO excited to feature Melanie Selemidis on my blog not only because of her extraordinary passion & talent for poetry & prose, but also because she was brave enough to make a lifelong dream come true in the name of art. Specifically, Mel saved up the money to return to her family's ancestral homeland in Greece on her quest to explore her heritage & to fuel her artistic inspiration for her first novel Sirens of Santorini. If you love to live out loud, you will want to visit Mel's beautiful website at But until then, sit back, kick up your feet, and enjoy a mini "soul vacation" with the gorgeous photographs Mel shares that were taken on her recent pilgrimage to Greece where she found the "soul home" she had always been treasuring in her heart.
Hi Mel, and welcome to Bandits Ranch! On your lovely blog Melpomene: The Muse of Tragedy, you explain that you were named after the muse of tragedy who is now your inspiration and your destiny. Tell us about your Greek background and how your family came to Australia, and how you took upon Melpomene as more than a namesake but a muse! What philosophy or orientation towards life do you share with her? Does tragedy always imply "sadness", or can it really denote the courage to live life abundantly with passion & intensity, regardless of the consequences?
Thank you Diane for your lovely comments and for giving me the opportunity to  be a guest on your magical blog to talk about the things I’m most passionate about. My family migrated to Australia in 1969 on an assisted migration program to escape political & economic instability in Greece & the military junta and  to make a better life for their children. When they enrolled me in school to get a better education, my name was immediately anglicized to Melanie for ease of pronunciation, spelling and assimilation. The Australian Government now allows you to keep your ethnic name, but in those early days of an influx of migrants assimilation was key. Names are so important to identity, but I was forced to take on an anglo identity & to renounce my ethnic identity. I struggled to fit in and be accepted and to avoid racist taunts.

As a teen I stumbled upon my ‘real’ name Melpomene and was shocked at first. I joked that I needed years of therapy to get over being named after the fearsome Muse of Tragedy, but really it was a revelation that made everything else in my life make sense. It gave me my rich cultural identity, opened up a whole new understanding of self and unmasked me. I’ve written a blog post titled “My Name Means Everything to Me” which further explores the topic. Muse of Tragedy was not originally known for inspiring only tragic art forms, particularly plays. She was known for her singing and dancing. The name Melpomene literally translates to “Celebrate with Song/Dance.” Interestingly, I found out recently while researching for my WIP novel about Sirens that she was the mother of the Sirens according to Greek Mythology. This has thrilled me as it’s another sign that this novel that I’ve been working on for years is my destiny! Everything is falling into place as fate has decreed. I’m a firm believer in fate and living your Mythology. I don’t see tragedy as a negative thing. The tragic plays and myths teach us not to miss opportunities and to avoid needless suffering by living a life full of passion and integrity not regret and sorrow.  

I adore the original poetry you include on your blog (a couple of my favorites are your "Full Moon" Haiku & "Gorgona", which is featured below). How old were you when you began writing poetry, and what inspired you? Who were your favorite poets growing up & today? Do you feel you tend to perceive life in a "poetic" fashion (under the blessing of your muse!), or is it always a struggle to put pen to paper?

Thank you Diane. I have a kept a journal since I was a little girl, recording thoughts, reflecting on life and expressing myself through poetry. It’s always been my default method of expression: poetry as a play on words, sounds, meanings. I found in poetry the deep interplay of passion distilled in verse, the rhythm of life in words. It combined my love of language and love of life beautifully. It’s how I perceive and experience the world and how I translate that experience becomes my poetry. My poems are about the human condition: love, longing and loss, whether for a lover or homeland or for a state of being. They’re about that search for connection with your soul, your spiritual home, returning to yourself, to that place where you are fully yourself and all you can be. As a child my favourite poet was Dr Suess! The joyful play of language, rhythm and rhyme still delights me today as I share his books with my children. Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl also made an impression. Growing up I fell in love with metaphysical and romantic poets Donne, Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Browning, Bronte and Dickinson as well as the classical Greek epic poems of Homer, Sappho, Cavafy, the ecstatic Sufi poems of Rumi, Hafiz and many more poets such as Neruda, Plath, Rilke, Baudelaire, Borges, Lorca, Porter, Sexton and Duffy. Life is poetry. Poetry is life. Sometimes it flows like a river, other times it’s blocked and stagnant. Sometimes it pours out of me, other times it dams up ready to burst forth until I make a breakthrough.
You have been a teacher in the past—what subject/s did you teach? How did you endeavor to impart your passion for life to your students?
I have been a teacher for 22 years, ever since I finished university as a fresh faced 23-year old. I still am a teacher. It’s not just an occupation but a vocation, a passion. I’ve taken long service leave this year to follow my dream & passion of working full time on my young adult/new adult novel based on Greek Siren Mythology. I teach English, History, Drama, Health and English as a second language. I’m very passionate about passing on my passion for my subject areas and for learning in general. I keep my lessons relevant, fun, and try to incorporate all the senses & both body and mind. I light incense, use aromatherapy, share herbal teas and teach basic yoga and meditation. Anything that engages all the senses when learning helps.

Have you always had an abiding interest in Greek mythology—was this something that was cultivated in your family? Or did you discover Greek mythology as part of your own reading adventure? Have you ever seen Greek tragedies performed on stage? Which one/s are your favorites?
I have been brought up on Greek Mythology and have always had a fascination for the stories of my people. I love to hear stories from my village from my parents too. I find village life fascinating too with the old fables and myths interwoven into their existence. I believe we have  a lot to learn from them as we keep recreating them, living them. I've seen many Greek tragedies performed here in Australia but never in Greece, unfortunately. To experience Greek tragedy in an ancient amphitheatre is a dream of mine. Soon after beginning teaching, a friend persuaded me to get up on stage and perform the Tango in a cabaret act and I’ve been hooked on theatre since. I went back to university and got my Post grad Degree in Drama in Education. I played Antigone in a production and that is my favourite Greek tragedy and role. I admire Antigone for her strength of character and resolve, her determination to take a stand for what she believes in despite the tragic consequences. It echoes the Greek spirit of tragedy, of living with passion, conviction and integrity. My favourite line from that play is “Eros anikate mahan” which translates to “Love, invincible in battle.” I’m even getting that tattooted on my forearm soon.
Tell us what you are working on now in terms of your writing? You've been posting many gorgeous photos on twitter of Greece—how is this country currently inspiring your writing?

I began my novel, Sirens of Santorini, 3 years ago when I was finally able to get back to my writing after having children as my husband stopped working long night shifts as well but it’s been difficult to find much time to write with my demanding job as a teacher. That’s why I took the year off to travel there in Oct to finish it, where it’s set. It’s essential I make this physical and metaphorical odyssey back to my Ithaka to come full circle and finish this tale where it began. It completely enthralled me 15 years ago when I spent my honeymoon there and I’ve had a burning desire to return ever since. It’s a mythical, magical place like no other on earth. It’s where I felt most at ease, most like myself, my true nature and I yearn to return to myself. It underpins all the themes in my novel, in my life.

Finally, what would you tell people who want to insert more passion, sensuality, and beauty in their lives, the way you do with your wonderful blog? And particular advice?
I would say, in the words of the great Mythologist Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss.” Nurture your dreams, no matter how big, find what you love and do it with passion. Take a moment each day to just sit and appreciate the beauty of life: take a walk, connect with nature, take a risk, try something new, be kind to others, inspire others, surround yourself with beautiful things, listen to music, read a great book, write a poem, watch the sunset and/or rise, have a fragrant bath, stop and smell the roses, light a candle, meditate on your dreams and make them happen!


I plunge in
immersed in the deep
of my being
suspended in a dream
a liminal limbo
between knowing myself and losing myself completely
I hear a voice calling me back
faint but imploring
I turn my head
It fills with sounds of the sea
I let go and float
letting the waves take me away
to a place where I do not have to think
only feel
I feel cradled by the arms of Poseidon
carrying me back
to Atlantis

It's here! DOON—the new contemporary fairytale YA romance by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon has hit the bookstores to many accolades, and why shouldn't it? Two feisty & smart teen heroines, hunky guys in kilts galore, and a gorgeous misty landscape in Scotland that hides the secrets of the mysterious (and renowned) lost paradise of Brigadoon. But can such fairy tales possibly be real in our modern era? This is precisely the dilemma that DOON's characters confront—with a plot & ultimate choices that will leave you gasping for breath. After reading this charming book, I couldn't wait to interview Carey Corp about how she came up with the idea for her novel & what it was like to develop it with her dear friend & co-author Lorie Langdon. Below is the Bandits Ranch interview—if you like what you see here, you can check out DOON at & visit Carey's website at (she's also on Twitter at @CareyCorp : )

Thank you for visiting Bandits Ranch, Carey! Tell me about how you got started as a writer. Had you always dreamed of entering this profession and of writing fiction one day? Or did you just sort of fall into it? Give us an idea of what your writing journey has been like. 

Back in 2004 after I saw the live action version of Peter Pan directed by P.J. Hogan, I had a crazy dream that was the origin for my first book. The first chapter of SHADES OF NEVERLAND unfolded as I slept. The next day I wrote it down and then I worked on that story on and off for several years. Although it was the first manuscript I started, it was the fourth book I finished. Until that first book, I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer. Oh, there were little signs I my eleventh summer when I wrote 100 pages of dialogue for a soap opera that was a direct rip off of Santa Barbara. I’m sure all the characters had ghastly names like Hornet Jones and Ferrari Springs. Luckily, my taste for cheesy, dramatic names didn’t last into adulthood! However, my third completed manuscript was the first one to get me attention in the publishing world. THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN was highly praised and highly passed over because angels had trended in young adult fiction. I eventually released it, and much more recently SHADES OF NEVERLAND, under my own label. And my fifth book, DOON, sold in a four book deal to BLINK/HarperCollins.

Author Carey Corp

What were your favorite books when you were growing up & as a teenager? Did any of these influence you as a writer of YA fiction?

When I was a teenager, there weren’t a lot of books for teens. The same summer I wrote my genius soap opera, I read THE THORN BIRDS by Colleen McCullough—twice. That was probably my favorite book growing up. After high school, I didn’t read much for over a decade. When I started up again, TWILIGHT was huge. After I read it, I knew I wanted to write compelling, can’t-put-it-down young adult fiction. Incidentally, SHADES OF NEVERLAND, although YA friendly, is actually a fairytale for adults (formerly entitled ECHOES OF NEVERLAND for my readers who’ve been asking for this novel). It’s for anyone who’s misplaced the best parts of themselves in their hurry to grow up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and been shocked at the middle-aged, soccer mom staring back at me!

What one or two books could you not live without (that you love to read over & over again?). Why are these books so special to you?

PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen and LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo. LES MISERABLES is a brilliant allegory of Old Testament law (Javert) and New Testament grace (Jean Valjean). It’s so rich with themes and symbolism. I learn something new each time I read it. And Jane Austen is so witty—her writing is delicious. I love her strong heroines. Lizzy Bennett rocks!

So tell me about the inspiration for your new DOON. What possessed you to write a story about contemporary teens who find themselves magically transported to a mysterious realm in Scotland that holds the potential to be either a lovely fairy tale or a nightmare, depending on their choices? Does your novel have any connection to Lerner & Lowe's 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon? Or to the 1954 film version of the same name starring Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse?

DOON is based on the concept of Brigadoon—as seen on stage and film, with permission for conceptual use from the Lerner & Loewe estates. As to how the story came about, I’m going to quote my co-author Lorie Langdon: “We’d just finished editing our respective solo projects and were discussing what we each wanted to write next, when I mentioned my idea of doing a retelling of Brigadoon. Coincidentally, Carey had just completed her second young adult novel, so I was picking her brain on voice and technique when somewhere along the way our conversation took a detour. Our ideas for the mythical kingdom of DOON sparked an explosion of evil witches, magic spells, daring adventures, two unique best friends, and heroic princes in kilts...soon it became clear that this story was bigger than the both of us, but that together we could make it amazing. So we jumped in with both feet and DOON was born!”

And I have to say that your mutual passion & enthusiasm for Brigadoon shows in the writing! But there's one thing I'm dying to know—did you ever find yourself breaking out in song while writing this novel?

Uh, I break out in song anyway. I’m a total theater geek. I sing Broadway songs at the top of my lungs when I’m alone in my car—sometimes I even tear up. Now I’m passing my musical theater affliction on to my daughter so when she’s older, she’ll be able to express herself to her therapist in A CHORUS LINE lyrics.

So tell me what it was like to work with a friend as a co-author for this novel. How did you parcel out the plot/character brainstorming & writing tasks? Were there any special challenges in working with another writer?

Lorie Langdon created and wrote Veronica Welling (Vee) and her prince Jamie MacCrae. I wrote Mackenna Reid (Kenna) and Duncan MacCrae. DOON is told from both Vee and Kenna’s points of view, so it worked out well. The best thing about co-authoring is also the most challenging—giving up creative control. Lorie and I did a lot of compromising. But our manuscript is stronger for it.

Co-author Lorie Langdon

Do you anticipate writing a sequel to DOON or more books with Lorie Langdon?
Lorie and I are working on the sequel to DOON now. And we have at 2 more books in the series to write after that.
Finally, if you could invite ANY authors, living or dead, to a dinner party featuring your favorite Scottish/Celtic foods, who would you send magical invitations to? And what food & beverages might you serve?
Jane Austen for sure. Maybe Will Shakespeare. And J.K. Rowling. I’m not a fan of haggis or meat pies. Maybe we’d have smoked goose or a joint of beef with neeps and tatties. Or shepherd’s pie. Maybe Ginger wine or heather ale. Or tea and shortbread. Or maybe I’d take a page from DOON’s Italian imports the Rosetti’s and have Pizza Margherita!

Sounds fun to me! Thank you for visiting Bandits Ranch, Carey, and best of luck with DOON and the sequels!

 The famous Brig O' Doon medieval bridge in Scotland

At Home With Fairies: Marilyn Dieckmann
Multi-talented author Marilyn Dieckmann not only writes spellbinding fairy tales (like her novel EVERWUD), she even builds fairy tree houses! The following is my interview with this immensely creative woman who is an inspiration to us all. For information about her book & fairy houses, visit her website at or email her at You can also find EVERWUD at Amazon

It doesn't come as a surprise to me that you're the author of the marvelous modern fairy tale EVERWUD, which is so wonderfully written & poignant that it brought tears to my eyes! You call yourself  "a dreamer in full color," and anyone can tell from the delightful picture of you below with the wreath on your head that you have a natural affinity for fairies & nature spirits. You even construct and sell fairy tree houses! At what age were you when your fascination with fairies began? Did you read fairy tales as a child?

When I was 5, I cried because the nasty boy across the street was throwing snowballs at our tree. He laughed at me, but I could truly sense the tree’s pain. My mom worried because I was so sensitive…but I’d rather be like me.  I was a fanciful shy little girl and would sit on the front stoop alone…dreaming. My parents worked so very hard, and there weren’t many books read to us or stories told. We had a collection of Golden Books and other story books too, but I struggled with reading. I firmly believe I was one of the ‘challenged’ children who slipped through the cracks before learning disabilities were diagnosed and accepted. The truth is, I’ve always heard whispers in the wind, and I believe nature’s beauty is personal. Each flutter of a leaf is magical, and the fragrance of the earth touches me and stirs my senses. Is there anything more lovely than the scent of a rose or the seasons as they change? Take time to breathe deep, every essence of life…there is magic everywhere.

So what inspired you to write your own fairy tale EVERWUD about a ten-year-old boy who discovers his fairy heritage? Tell me a little bit about your process of discovery that led up to writing this book, Also, what was the writing process like for you? Did you have to do a lot of research, or did most of it just flow from your imagination? 

What began as a simple exercise for a writing course became the main theme for EVERWUD.  It was a prompt, and I couldn’t help myself…I ran with it. A child at a pet shop window. I saw an orphan with his nose pressed against the glass, longing for of a pet of his very own. However, he was totally alone. Then I asked myself…why is he alone?  What’s going on in his life? Then the bits and pieces of his life magically flowed together, and my fascination with trees became a natural highlight for my adventure. The first draft was quickly written in third person setting up the cast of characters and plot. It was more of an outline really, and the focus was entirely on my half-elf boy and his dog. Joey, is actually a combination of my three sons, and their antics growing up in the north woods of Minnesota. They built treehouses, dug-outs, and took off rafting down the stream near our land. I’ll never forget the day they came home coated with mud, and soaked with swamp water stem to stern. My sons gave me a ton of material to draw from. The realm of EVERWUD was added later in the third re-write. I changed the point of view to first person (Joey’s), and life through the portal is third person and his mom’s world. I cried so hard when I wrote about his mom in the first draft…I had to give her voice. EVERWUD has become as real to me as my own life.

I'd LOVE to hear how you got started building fairy tree houses! When did this idea strike you, and how long does it take to plan & build one? What is the price range, and how do people go about ordering one of your enchanting creations?

About 20 years ago, I happened upon a quaint gift shop tucked away in the back corner of a shopping mall. As I walked in the door I noticed an old stump off to the side being used as a shelf for delicate tea sets and floral pieces. My first thought was, what a waste of such an amazing piece of wood…and then an idea was born. It remained safely tucked away until about seven years ago. First of all, NO live trees are harmed, and I use only select pieces. I can’t explain how I know what design will take shape, only that each piece speaks to me. Some houses will take weeks, and others I see instantly. Ideas come to me in my dreams! If I close my eyes, I can put together an entire house without ever touching a twig. I’ve constructed door hinges, cranks for wishing wells, and shuttered windows. My imagination truly knows no limits, and I’ve made 79 fairy houses that are scattered around the world. Each house is one of a kind and has it’s own life and story, and I believe there is something magical about my houses. At one time I had 9 (lighted) houses in the shop, and the dusty cluttered mess (sticks, sawdust, twigs & moss etc.) became a fairy haven. I would sneak down to my shop, turn on the lights and sit quietly, bathed in the glow from my fairy houses.  Right now there are 11 pre-cut homes ready for a touch of magic in my shop. The White Birch Castle is nearly finished, and Hickory Dickory Clock House is next. Prices start at $350 and I will take custom orders…all I need is a theme. You can order them at my website at 

Mermaid Cove: The story for this house is the “Sisters of Cedria.” Two sisters, one born of the earth & the other of the sea…live side by side in mermaid’s cove.

Pink Lace & Strawberries: One of my favorites. I spent hours dreaming about this house. The story for this house is that “Fairies Really DO Live at Grandma's!”

Light-keepers House: Dreams of magical air-ships prompted this lovely lighthouse. A beacon for those stalwart souls sailing about the realm on every whisper of the wind.

Something I didn't know about you is that you come from a long line of gypsies. No wonder you're so magical and creative! Your great-grandmother Anna was a gypsy who you've described as a "gad-a-bout" who gave birth to 4 children out-of-wedlock. That's not such a big deal today, but during her time it was quite the scandal. Did you ever have the good fortune to meet her? (My great grandmother lived to her 90s, so I did get to meet her shortly before she passed away.) I hear that you've been told that you look like your great-grandmother, and that you have the gypsy "look". Have you ever been told that you share other traits with her? What country did she come from, and what gypsy stories did you hear about her when you were growing up?

I never met my great-grandmother Anna, but I did hear stories! It is said that she crossed the lower Tatra Mountains in what is now Slovakia, and was mistress to an Austrian nobleman (supposedly my great-grandfather). Quite a long trek back then, and four children came from that union (my grandmother Mary was the youngest, and in my opinion, a great beauty inside and out). Anna traveled to America after her children were grown and left home. My mom said she followed her children, but the old Slovak women were terrified that she would steal their husbands. She was too beautiful and could not be trusted, so they sent her back. Whether she retuned to Czechoslovakia or simply left Minneapolis, I don’t know. But it is sad. As for my look..when I was quite young (5 or 6), the old Slovak women would get together and tell stories (gossip) while making koláče (usually for a church function). I remember one day in particular. Mrs. Kováč stopped talking, pointed at me, clicked her tongue and said, “She has the look” (in Slovak). All the other women stopped what they were doing, looked at me, and shook their heads. I was a skinny shy little girl and they were imposing women. When I asked my mom what was going on, she shushed me and I had to wait until we left before she would tell me what was said. Imagine my disappointment when she shook her head, translated the simple phrase, and never told me what it meant. It wasn’t until I was nineteen that I learned the truth about Anna. So, did those old women point the finger at me because I look gypsy or because I look like a home wrecker? I’ll never know. But since I have the eyes, nose, complexion and hair… I’ll go with gypsy. And, those women may have been cranky old gossips, but they could make melt-in-your-mouth delicious koláče! I have the photos and memories of my mom and grandma. They are my treasures.

When you were 19 you were actually a folk singer, and you sang in a coffee-house called the "Broken Drum" where Bob Dylan dropped by! Somehow that fact reinforces your gypsy/vagabond image for me ; ) Tell me about that period in your life and your musical pursuits.

I LOVE to sing! And I absolutely LOVE old black and white movies. The first time I heard Helen Morgan and Billie Holiday…well, I knew I had the voice for those wonderful old songs. Trouble was, back then those old movies were few and far between, and we only had one television. It was then I discovered sheet music. I wanted to sing, so my best friend Nancy Jean and I bought a guitar (to share). It’s all we could afford,  and we learned to play together. She couldn’t carry a tune, and I was slow picking up the guitar, so we were a duo. She strummed…I sang. We had a great time! The Broken Drum was a tiny coffee house with painted black walls & so-so coffee. Bob Dylan played there, and we felt honored to be on teh same stage. We were "allowed" to sing if we waitressed on the side. This was way back in 1968 and the music was everything to us, so we waited tables. We weren't "hippies" or any of the names applied back then. We were simply two girls who loved music and had a good time. 

You used to be a school teacher, and then you wrote EVERWUD about the journey of discovery of a ten-year-old boy. I hesitate to label EVERWUD as a "children's book" because it's so well written that it can appeal to readers across a broad spectrum. But I'm interested to know how being a former teacher influenced or shaped the book you eventually wrote?

Extreme frustration with the education system led me into teaching. I was witness to a multitude of failures by teachers who either didn’t care or weren’t up to the task. Many would simply toss out gobs of information and hope it would stick, or expect students to read and comprehend a lesson from a worn-out archaic text book. That is not teaching. Students failed and were left behind because the teacher didn’t teach. A lesson must be adapted for all learning styles. I’m a visual learner…I glean more from an image than a dull written page. However, I love to read. So my goal in writing EVERWUD was to create an adventure that was as visual as it was written word. Changing the point of view in EVERWUD between Joey (first person), and his mom (third person) allowed me to paint a picture of a marvelous world for all readers. I could let my imagination SOAR! I would also like to thank the one teacher who saw talent in me…Mrs. Schumacher. She asked me to stand up in front of the class with Sandy, the most popular girl in the whole school, and read book reports we had written. I was so embarrassed! Afterward, Mrs. Schumacher asked the class to vote. Everyone (including me) voted for Sandy’s. Mrs. Schumacher and Sandy voted for mine. Then she asked the class why she personally thought mine was better, but no one could answer. So, she told them…I was the only student in the entire class who knew the true meaning of the book, and it was the first line of my report.  ‘Nothing in the world is more precious than love.’ I got an A+ (It was the story of a boy and his dog.)

I love it that you are a daydreamer who admits that she "dreams all day long." Did you ever get in trouble at school or at home for that? (I certainly did!) Where do you think this creativity & imagination comes from, and did it take you a while to learn to channel this to productive use? You are so multi-talented in writing, music & art—how did you become such an expansive person who's motto is "There are no limits to my thoughts"? Tell me a little bit about your journey as a creative individual.

I was always in trouble! I would constantly stare out the window or off into space and leave the rest of the world behind. (I still do!) Most teachers didn’t get it and I was labeled different. At home I draped a purple scarf over my light so my bedroom had a purple glow. Why I have this fascination with purple…I don’t know. But it’s my dream color. I tried to draw the images I see in my dreams…but I don’t have the talent. I can draw, but I’m no Michelangelo! Everything I draw has a cartoon-like quality. I did try cartooning once, but couldn’t replicate my characters well enough for a consistent comic strip. I created sand-candles and loved working in that medium! My candles were elaborate sculptures, and I used sticks, stones, nuts, leaves and anything else that sparked my interest. I created a 3-tier waterfall-candle-planter for my brother-in-law’s grandmother, and her vines grew in that piece for years. I made sand-castle candles that were dreamy (with purple wax). My seashell shaped candles were amazing. I embedded a conch shell in the wax and when it was lit, you could hear the sound of the ocean from the shell. Then I tried punched tin designs and made lanterns and candle holders. But nothing was truly a success until my fairy houses. They are the result of a dreamers many dreams. My fairy tale come true…

And finally, what advice do you have for writers, artists & dreamers who are just starting out? And tips or bits of wisdom that you'd like to pass along?

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. I tried so many different outlets for my imagination, and nearly gave up countless times, but I didn’t.  My mind and it’s ceaseless prattle forever haunts me.If you have an idea…write it down. Keep a journal. I don’t regret any of my quirky ideas and projects. They are who I am. Above all…dream. Dream BIG!


Rachel Kall's Debut—Legally Undercover!

It's simply not fair that someone as beautiful & smart as Rachel Kall can ALSO write a dynamite new novel titled Legally Undercover. Luckily, she's one of the nicest people on earth as well—but how did she possibly find the time with her whirlwind career as a lawyer to pen this action-filled romance? Rachel fills us in on her time-management tricks below and discusses her exciting new novel for Bandits Ranch! 
Hi Rachel & welcome to Bandits Ranch! As I mentioned above, you're a busy lawyer, yet you wrote a new novel titled Legally Undercover. Can you tell us about the plot of your novel? And how has being a lawyer helped you enter the mind of your main character Alex, who is also a lawyer?
Alex is an attorney trying to make partner at a large law firm when she’s presented with a top secret assignment that impacts national security. She doesn’t know whether she can trust her client contact Pedro, but she knows that failure on this assignment will destroy her chances at making partner. I tried to bring elements of a real law firm environment into the story, but make no mistake—this is completely fiction. No top secret assignments and arms dealers in my life.
I'm secretly glad, Rachel! The tension in your novel deals with arms dealers. Did you have to do special research to make this aspect of your novel realistic, or did you already know something about this world and its secrets? What other research did you do for Legally Undercover?
I had some prior academic experience in the area, and I also didn’t delve too deeply into the logistics as it wasn’t necessary. I did do a bit of research on Russia, and also spoke to a Russian expert on some issues.
So tell us about your writing journey. Have you always dreamed of being a writer since you were a child, or is this more of a new adventure for you?
I have definitely been writing since childhood. But it’s only been more recently that I’ve taken my writing to the next level.
It's hard for me to believe you even have time to write with your busy career! How did you manage to complete a novel with all the hours you put in at work? Do you have any tips for time management that you can share with other people pursuing the arts?
It’s hard for me to believe it sometimes too! Time management skills are essential. What I have come to realize is that there is almost always time for something if you make the time. That might mean getting up earlier or staying up later. Or it may mean not doing some other things you might want to do. It’s all about prioritization and sacrifice.  I took part in NaNo for the first time ever and that was tough! It’s almost impossible with my schedule to write every day. So writing every day doesn’t work for me, but I make the time in other ways.
You have a very special bond with animals who you refer to as your "fur children". Do you feature animals in your novel at all?
Of course! Legally Undercover features Mr. Leo, who is inspired by my own tabby cat Leo. He is Alex’s trusted companion.
Legally Undercover is published by Entranced, and you recently acquired a literary agent. Can you describe what the publishing and representation process was like for you?
The publishing process has been a very good experience. I credit most of that to my fabulous and diligent editor Emily Ward. On the agenting front, I just started working with the amazing Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost. I have a few projects pending with her. Hopefully I will be able to share good news on those at some point in the future.
And finally, with such a busy career & your writing ambitions, what do you do to relax & destress yourself?
I find time to go to the gym and usually read while doing cardio. That time is purely “me” time. I also love spending times with my animals, walking the dogs and cuddling with my cats. I squeeze in a few TV shows and one of my favorites is The Good Wife.

To celebrate release week, in addition to a giveaway for a $20 Amazon giftcard, Rachel is doing something a little different. Many of you probably know of her love for animals—Rachel is going to donate $2 dollars to Winging Cat Rescue for every copy of Legally Undercover sold during release week. As Rachel says, "I can't think of a better way to celebrate a dream of mine coming true!"
Below is a brief description of Legally Undercover &
the details about Rachel's fabulous giveaway & donation process!
LEGALLY UNDERCOVER: Attorney Alex Popov’s dream of partnership is put to the test when she’s pulled into a top-secret investigation involving arms dealers and one of her clients, Rodrigues Capital. The only good part about her association with the secretive organization is her client contact, Pedro Martín. She’s drawn to him, but he’s hiding something. When Jacob shows up as a new attorney at Alex’s firm, it’s clear Pedro isn’t the only one with secrets. As Alex tries to determine Jacob’s true identity, she’s drawn closer to Pedro and deeper into the mystery of Rodrigues Capital and its shadowy networks. Everyone has an agenda. In a world of lies, where no one is what they seem, Alex puts everything—even her dreams of partnership—on the line for love. To purchase Legally Undercover on Amazon, click here. To purchase on Smashwords, click here. To purchase on Kobo, click here.
GIVEAWAY & DONATION FOR CHARITY: Click HERE to enter to win a $20 Amazon Giftcard! To ensure the donation to the fabulous charity Winging Cat Rescue simply email Rachel at with confirmation of your receipt after you purchase Legally Undercover.

Jane Carroll: Renaissance Woman
I have long admired Jane Carroll as an author & Reiki practitioner who has an amazing ability to spread light & joy wherever she goes. So I couldn't wait to interview this woman whose book BERTHA-SIZE YOUR LIFE proves that you can live with boldness & flair at any age & it's never too late to learn new things & go on great adventures. Here is my fascinating discussion with a true renaissance woman of our time : )
Welcome to Bandits Ranch, Jane! I'm fascinated by the myriad dimensions of your life—you are a writer, a life coach, an RN & a Reiki Master! Providing hope & healing to others and teaching them how attract to themselves the lives that they want seem to be a big part of your life mission. Can you tell me how & when you began your journey to becoming a Reiki Master, and when you adopted the Law of Attraction principles as part of that? How do you feel these practices are harmonious, and how have they changed your view of the world?

Oh, it’s kind of a meandering story, but aren’t they all? I wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. I think it started when my grandfather had a stroke and was cared for at home. He occasionally required shots and that fascinated me. My motivation, though, was that I wanted to help people feel better. To be honest, at that point in my life, healthcare seemed like the only way to do that. And that is the path I followed. I first heard about Life Coaching around 2001 and was just taken by the possibility of actually doing that myself. By then I had worked as a nurse long enough to realize that there was a lot more involved in feeling good than just having your blood pressure under control—there was a mind, body, spirit connection and the combination of nursing and life coaching seemed like a great way to address it. So many of the things in my career sound like accidents, but I know there is no such thing as an accident. Finding out about Law of Attraction was one of those incidents. As a new coach, I was taking a series of teleseminars and one of them happened to be about Law of Attraction. The leader of the class sent me an Abraham cassette from Jerry and Esther Hicks. The information just resonated with me and I immediately began studying their teachings and incorporating the principles into my writing. Reiki came much later after a friend suggested that I take the training. I wasn’t very familiar with it at the time but decided to check into it and signed up for the next available class in my area. Now, all of these experiences do pull together to help me with what I have identified as my life’s purpose: inspiring women to heal. Bertha’s life’s purpose is inspiring women to wear high-heels! Naturally, she thinks hers is more important. ; )

You wrote a charming book titled Bertha-Size Your Life! about an empty nester who suddenly attracts a roommate named Bertha who helps her to fill the void in her life and to orient herself towards self-fulfillment and joy. How did the idea of the wonderfully over-the-top, living-in-full-color Bertha character come to you?

I always say that it was a fluke. I had started writing a book of exercises for self-discovery for women who were experiencing an empty nest. Most of them started off by asking the reader to take a few minutes and get quiet and then do whatever the exercise said to do. I was working with a Life Coach at the time who was really encouraging me to write. One day she left me a message saying her daughter had left home—her nest was empty—what should she do? I tried to call her but she wasn’t at home so I shot her an email. Very flippantly, without thinking, I said name your nest. It felt very Dr. Suessish. I named mine Bertha Butts. Then I wrote about how much more fun it was to come home to Bertha than to an empty nest. And that was that. A few days later I was frustrated about something and I decided to just let Bertha take care of it. And the first Bertha story was written just like that. Of course, once she was on paper she transformed all those flat exercises into stories about her. The rest, as they say, is history. Bertha, on the other hand, tells a very different story of trying to get my attention for a long time and finally one day I was quiet enough that could hear her.

One of my favorite scenes from your book is in the "Snapshot" chapter where Bertha starts taking pictures of the middle-aged narrator despite her protests. The narrator complains, saying "You know I hate having my picture taken. I've gained weight. I don't look the same as when I was young, and I really don't like being permanently reminded of these facts." But then Bertha tells her, "I'm talking lots of pictures of you today knowing that when you see them you will see the beautiful woman that others see when they look at you. When I look at you, I see beautiful eyes that twinkle with a little mischief and a smile that could light up any room. When I look at you, I see the laughter, the warmth and the passion, not the so-called flaws." To me, this is the epitome of what Bertha offers the narrator—a chance to reorient her thinking and to learn to celebrate herself and life. Have you always viewed yourself and the world in this way, or was this a learning process for you, too?

Oh, I’m a work in progress. That day actually happened while I was writing the book. I needed some snapshots of myself and there just weren’t any because I hated having my picture taken. So after I was dressed for a friend’s wedding, I asked my neighbor to just take a bunch of pictures of me. I think we did two or three rolls of film. It was interesting because I was very self-conscious in the beginning but the more we took the more I relaxed and enjoyed it. Then, just like in the story, when I saw the pictures I realized I had some good features. That story was definitely a turning point in my life. But sometimes I backslide . . . that’s why I keep Bertha around.

You always seem so up and positive. What brings you joy in life, and how do you keep up your positive outlook? What prompted you to become a life coach so that you could impart buoyancy, strength, and a sense of purpose to others? Give us some insight into what are the hardest things and the most rewarding things about being a life coach.

Thank you for saying that. I really do try to keep my outlook on the sunny side. I find that spending time in nature actually nurtures me in so many ways. I just ate breakfast outside this morning and was able to see a bluebird couple checking out the little house I hung on my fence. That will make me smile all day. Writing also keeps my energy positive and I write something most days whether it is my blog, a chapter for a book or journaling. And for those occasions when I need a little help, I read a chapter of Bertha or another uplifting book.

You know I have been through a lot of things in my life: divorce, single parenthood, financial despair, being overweight, nd relationships that just didn’t do what I wanted them to. I made some poor decisions and dug myself into a hole more than once. But deep down inside I always knew there was a better way. As I started figuring it out in my life, I wanted to help other women to find that better way as well. The greatest thing about being a coach is honestly the day that a client is ready to go it without you. That’s when I know I’ve done my job. I’ve given her the tools she needs—she gets it. I do love being there when the light bulbs go off over her head. Those ah-ha moments are priceless. The most difficult times are when she continues to argue for her limitations using that three letter word—but!

What might people be the most surprised to learn about you?

Hmmm…I’m really pretty shy and an introvert. People generally see me as outgoing and friendly, but it’s something that I have to work at. I love being with people but I have to have some time to myself every day. I get up extremely early just to have that time before I leave for work at 6:30 a.m.

Have you always been a writer, or was writing Bertha an entirely new kind of adventure?

I have always enjoyed writing. I wrote my first stories and poems when I was in the seventh grade. I call it my Goth period—they were pretty dark and filled with a lot of middle school angst. After that I mostly wrote when I was frustrated. I guess it made me feel better even then. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter graduated from college and got married that I decided to write in earnest.

If you could be a casting director, who might you cast as Bertha and as the narrator if your book were to be made into a film? (I think the costume department would have a ball with Bertha's wardrobe! : ) Any special music you'd love to have featured in such a film?

I’m thinking Katey Sagal could pull Bertha off without a hitch…she pretty much had the wardrobe down pat in Married with Children and I know she could stand on a soapbox with the best of them! Bertha’s favorite song is Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel—the words totally capture her philosophy. I’m sure she would sing it often during the movie.

Katey Sagal would make the PERFECT Bertha! Now I have to go listen to that Sister Hazel song again, too ; ) So in conclusion here, your eager fans want to know if you plan a follow-up or sequel to Bertha-Size Your Life?

I’m excited to say that the sequel is at the publisher’s for the first round of the editing process. I get antsy about editing…but Bertha says it’s like going on one of those television shows for an extreme makeover. If all goes well it will be out later this year. There's also a journal in the works so there may be two Bertha offerings this year.

Diane, thank you so much for having me. As you know, I'm one of your biggest TWIXT! 


Breakout Star Colleen Hoover!

Bandits Ranch welcomes New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover! For those of you who might have been hiding under a rock or lost in a cave somewhere over the past year, Colleen Hoover is an indie author who single-handedly turned the publishing world upside down with her smash novels Slammed, Point of Retreat & Hopeless—all of which she first published HERSELF! And after her novels started to soar on the New York Times bestseller lists, you can bet the publishing industry sat up and took notice. Soon interviews on Nightline & other media outlets followed, and now Colleen Hoover is nothing short of a phenomenon. I'm so delighted to chat with Colleen for this exclusive interview as she shares her writing process & publishing experiences that led her to where she is today.

Hi Colleen, and thank you for taking time out from your family & busy writing life to do this interview! You are by FAR my biggest literary heroine right now for several reasons—mind if I list them? One reason is that you were formerly a social worker living in a trailer park with your husband & three boys, and after you decided to write a novel as a gift to share with your mother, you were repeatedly rejected by agents who told you to change your novel Slammed to third person, take out all the poetry that made it unique, and up the age limit beyond eighteen. Thank god you stuck to your guns and decided to self-publish Slammed as is, because it became a New York Times bestseller! If that weren't enough, the other reason you're my heroine is because your work is entirely ORIGINAL. To put it bluntly, your story Slammed did not ride the coattails of any previously published novels or films (like some self-published fan fictions out there that have become "bestsellers," yet the characters & stories are not entirely unique). In other words, you're a true breakout STAR of self-publishing who developed her own characters & worlds! When you began the novel Slammed, did you dream of writing as becoming your career? I read a blog post you had written on June 15th, 2006 where you appear to have given up on writing entirely. What changed? Were you determined to try again, or was your new-found success more of a serendipitous accident?

I think coming to the realization that this wouldn't be my career actually helped me. I finally started writing again for the love of it and not for the hopes that it would make me money. Once I had that mentality, the pressure disappeared and it became nothing but fun and self-enjoyment. I believe that's what made SLAMMED unique was the fact that it didn't follow a best-seller formula. It was different and unique and apparently what the readers were craving at the time. So I chalk it up to a ton of great timing and good luck.

Your books have been called "over-the-top sexy" and even "erotica" for a new literary category termed "New Adult" that features characters from 17-25. When you first put pen to paper, were you even considering the "New Adult" category or what might be a marketable novel right now, or were you just caught up in the story that filled your heart? Were you intentionally trying to make your work sexy, or was that more of a byproduct of telling the truth about these young people's lives?

I had never even heard of New Adult or Young Adult. I wasn't even sure what genre my book was, nor did I care. I think the most important thing for an author is to write from the heart and the readers will be able to tell the difference.


 How do you address critcs of the sex factor in your novels? We are living in a post-Shades of Grey world—do you think the sexual bar for most fiction has been raised now? And people in their late teens & early twenties are very active anyway, so get over it? Or do you think any of this concern has merit? What would you NEVER put in your novels?

If people don't like sex, they shouldn't read it. Everyone has different tastes and that's a great thing. I love to read books like Fifty, but I can't say that I would ever write one. I also can't say that I won't. I have nothing against explicit sex scenes, it's just that none of the books I've written thus far have warranted them. I will say I hope to write a more mature adult novel in the future, but don't have an idea for one yet. And there are a few words that bother me that I wouldn't want to put in my books, but only because it takes me out of the story. I hate the word "mounds" when used for breasts or boobs. I also hate the word nipple, but there really isn't a way to get around that one. lol. 

I'd love to hear about your writing process. What comes first for you—ideas about a particular character, place, or the overall story? Give us an idea of how you generate your characters & get inside their heads and then paint their worlds.

Every book is completely different. Sometimes I write in order, sometimes I go back and change things. The one thing that has NEVER worked for me is an outline. But getting inside a characters head is difficult. Especially Holder. I actually stopped writing that book for two solid months because I couldn't figure him out. Once I figured out that I wasn't SUPPOSED to figure him out, since SKY wasn't supposed to figure him out, it came much easier.

I love that approach—they way you allow your characters to be who they are rather than force them to fit in a mold that you can understand. Another thing I loved about Hopeless is the amazing twists and turns that keep the reader flipping those pages. Did you sketch out the plot of the novel before you began with these pivotal moments in mind, or did you just write freely? Did you do many revisions or rewrites?

I wrote freely. Sometimes I would get to a point and get an idea that would require me to go back and change a few things. This book was so much fun to write because I had no idea what was going to happen from one scene to the next. I'd get to a scene and one of the characters would reveal something and I felt like I was just as shocked as the readers.
Right now you are categorized as a "New Adult" author. Do you imagine yourself writing in other genres or entirely different types of fiction in the future? Do you pay attention to categories at all?
I don't pay attention at all. I don't care if they labeled me sci-fi zombie non-fiction. If I'm passionate about an idea, I'm going to write it regardless of where I think it might fit. I don't believe in limiting oneself to a particular style or category.
How do you balance your writing with your incredibly busy life as a mother? Do you have any tips for other working moms or writers?
I haven't figured out how to balance it. Sometimes I'm up writing until 5 a.m. and then I'm grumpy and tired the next day and feel like the worst mother ever. I don't have it under control. I'm disorganized, scatter-brained and can't book a flight correctly if my life depended on it. So if anyone out there has any tips for me, I'm all ears!
Have you been approached about filming Hopeless? The book trailer of Hopeless by Katy Perez is so beautiful it moved me to tears! If Hopeless were made into a film, who might you envision as Sky & Holder? Any thoughts on the director?
I haven't sold the movie rights yet, but I did just get signed on with an agent through CAA so I'm hoping it happens soon.
Finally, congratulations for perservering and for writing some of the most memorable fiction out there in the last couple of years. Hope you enjoy every bit of your hard-earned success and continue to write great books!
 Thank you so much!

She may not wear a cloak, 
but Laura Howard has magical powers...

I'm convinced Laura Howard has magical powers—or at the very least, a fairy godmother! How else could this New England native be a novelist, mother of four children, and still keep up her incredibly popular blog Finding Bliss? I mean, this is a woman who runs author interviews, advice, and juicy tidbits on writing & the publishing industry nearly every day. So unless she foregoes sleep entirely or has her own personal genie, Laura has most certainly become the master of time management and artistic output. All by myself, I figured I have a lot to learn from Laura! So the following is my interview with her & discussion of her forthcoming debut novel The Forgotten Ones:

Hi Laura and welcome to Bandits Ranch! You hail from New England and you're the stay-at-home-mother to four children. How, in the midst of all the mommy craziness, did you come up with the idea to run a successful blog on writing and publishing? Did you have any experience to bring to the table, or did you just hop in?
Thanks Diane, not just for inviting me here, but for making me sound so "together"! I'll start by saying that in the early days, my blog didn't have a focus. I just posted random stuff or blog hops because I wasn't sure where to go with it. Over time, I received the advice, "If you're not an expert, learn from the experts." Since then I stopped posting random bits about my daily wordcounts or what writing challenges come up. I save those for Facebook... [grins]. I've pretty much just asked people who've been there done that to teach me about their experience, and then shared it with anyone else who wants to learn.

What challenges did you face when you first started your blog and how did you manage to overcome them?
When it started, I had no posting schedule. That stressed me out because I would go days and days without posting. Now I blog M/W/F and Saturdays ALMOST religiously. That keeps me focused, which makes it much more satisfying.

If all that weren't enough, then you decided to become a writer yourself with your debut novel The Forgotten Ones! Had you always wanted to be a writer? Tell me about your journey towards publication and how you mustered the courage and tenacity to go for it.
One thing is that I started writing The Forgotten Ones three and a half years ago. I'm a mother first—I didn't write every day. Sometimes it would be weeks in between. But these characters and this plot have their hooks in me very deeply. All the time I spent away from the manuscript, I still thought about them every single day. That's how I knew that this story needed to be told. Whether people love it or not, it has to be put out there.

When do you actually write? Do you carve out certain hours of the day when the kids are sleeping or at school? I'm utterly amazed that you managed to squeeze this in—do you have any time-management tips you can share with readers for making your writing dream a reality?
I can't say I have a schedule because my two year old would laugh at me. I write when I can, whether it's during naptime or TV time for him or after everybody's asleep. My husband has been pretty good about giving me kid-free writing time on weekends, too.

So tell us what your debut novel The Forgotten Ones is about and how you came up with the plot idea and the characters.
I'm not entirely sure how it is for other writers, but this story has morphed into what it is from a variety of experiences: the people I've known, books I've read, and my love of Irish mythology and history—all of these things live in TFO.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this novel—and the easiest?
The most difficult is excising the scenes or characters that aren't working. The easiest is researching Irish mythology—I'd do it anyway!

When will The Forgotten Ones be released, and where can people buy it? 
The Forgotten Ones is expected to be released May 15, 2013, and it will be available on Amazon.

In closing, I'd love to hear you name a few things about blogging or writing that you wish you'd known before you began. Any final tips that you can pass on to future bloggers or writers?
For blogging: keep putting out the posts YOU'D want to read. Whether it's once a week or everyday. If you keep putting good things out there, people will start to notice. It won't happen in a week, but after a couple of months of consistency, it WILL happen. For writing: it's rather similar. Keep writing whether it's once a week or every day. Each word moves your story along, just don't give up. Trust your editor, but listen to your heart.



For this edition of Artisans & Outlaws We Love, I have the great pleasure of introducing Stephanie Berget, a unique writer of Ranch & Rodeo Contemporary Romances set in the beautiful Northwest. But Stephanie doesn't just talk about western life—she lives it! She's an accomplished cowgirl who has spent many a year competing on the rodeo circuit. The following is an interview of Stephanie Berget conducted by Kari Lynn Dell for her gorgeous western blog Montana For Real. For more information about Stephanie Berget and her new novel  Sugarwater Ranch, please visit her lovely website at

My Photo
What is the working title of your next book?

Sugarwater Ranch has been the working title, but I’m also considering With a Cowboy Like Him. It’s a toss-up right now.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Nearly five years ago I read a contemporary rodeo romance. The author had done a wonderful job of writing the romance, but the rodeo and horse information was so off base that I cringed. I read on, eventually hoping the heroine would just shoot the TSTL hero and get it done with.

Speaking of TSTL--my next thought was, 'how hard can it be to write a book'? So I decided to try, you know, just whip one out and have a best seller. Little did I know the amount of time, struggle and high learning curve it takes to write a good book.

My hat’s off to all the great writers out there.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary Romance, or to be more specific, Contemporary Western Romance. Ah heck, it’s Rodeo Romance with cowboys and cowgirls, of course, and bucking horses, bulls and rodeo clowns.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I have a hard time choosing an actor or actress. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and the last movie I watched in a theater was The Jerk, starring Steve Martin. That was back in the . . . well, never mind. Suffice it to say, I’d rather read.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sean O’Connell’s life was perfect until drinking affected his bull riding, and he ended the season too broke to leave the Northwest for the warm southern rodeos.

When bar manager Catherine Silvera finds a waterlogged, unconscious cowboy in danger of freezing to death in front of the Sugarwater Bar, she saves his life--then runs away faster than a jackrabbit with a coyote on its tail. Any man who makes his living following the rodeo circuit is not for her, especially if he thinks partying is part of the competition.

Okay, that’s three. I guess I’ll have to work on that.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be represented by an agency. I'm not ready to try to self-publish. Learning to write taught me a lesson. Not one part of putting out a book is easy.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I started Sugarwater Ranch during National Novel Writers Month 2011. It took 30 days to put fifty-five thousand words on paper for the first draft. After nine months of revisions, it is now finished at eighty-four thousand words.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’d like to compare it to Katie Lane’s, Deep in the Heart of Texas series with a little touch of magic. If I could write as well as Katie, I’d be happy.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This book was inspired by all the rodeo friends I’ve known and traveled with for most of my life. They are a different breed. I wanted to write a romance involving cowboys and cowgirls with life on the rodeo trail accurately portrayed.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers might be interested in the rodeo and ranching scenes. I’ve kept them as true to life as I could. Or, they might be interested in the blond, green-eyed, totally hot hero, Sean O’Connell.

And now it’s my pleasure to introduce you to more remarkable and gifted authors. Drum roll, please...

I met Diane J Reed after reading her wonderful book, TWIXT. Diane chose to set her story in a small Idaho town not far from where I live. As I read, I could picture the beautiful mountain scenery. If you like fairies, magic and a love that traverses different worlds, you’ll love TWIXT.

Jacquie Rogers is a multi-published author whose motto of Fairies and Dragons and Mules--Oh My! has me laughing every time I visit her website. Her Heart of the Owyhees series is the best of historical western romance. Jacquie writes in several genres, including Faeries. Oh, and mules. With Jacquie, there’s something for everyone.

I got hooked on Dianne Solberg’s serial titled Angus & Lily--The ‘Clysm Wars. I waited for each chapter to come out and was disappointed when she finally brought it to an end. Dianne then began another wonderful story called, The Bear Facts. I can’t wait to see what Dee comes up with next.

I found John Ross Barnes on the #amwriting website. I enjoyed his blogs then got to know him better as a Twitter friend. He writes a variety of genres, including Friday Flash fiction, Haiku, Gogyohka--and, yes, I had to look the last one up. It's a very interesting form of Japanese poetry.

Also, if you're looking for a realistic view of life on a working ranch, tempered with a touch of humor, visit Kari Lynn Dell's blog, Montana for Real.

Photo credit note: All images on my blog are either my own, are copyrighted by an author & used with permission, or were gleaned from pictures in the public domains of popular social networks like tumblr, facebook or pinterest. If you own the copyright to any of these images & do NOT want them used publicly, please contact me & I will take them down immediately! 


  1. Sensational interview about Laura C. Howard. I just pressed her for questions, too, but am delighted to get the scoop here, first. I, too, am amazed at how put-together and constantly connected she is. Something for everyone to learn!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! Isn't Laura amazing? The way she juggles so many things but consistently puts out compelling blog posts—and writes a novel, no less—is quite admirable. Looking forward to your interview with her as well : )

  2. Amazing is right—I read that after Colleen Hoover's first book Slammed had soared onto the NY Times bestseller list, she was STILL getting rejections letters from agents in the mail! Hello? Earth to New York? Her courage & accomplishments are an inspiration to us all : )

  3. Jane Carrols interview is wonderful. I can't wait to read all about Bertha.

    1. Amen to that—can't wait to see what Bertha does next in Jane Carroll's sequel to Bertha-Size Your Life! : )