Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


A Real Live Texican!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it or not, but I have a special place in my heart for Baja Oklahoma. (also known as Texas.) My mama graduated from high school there and one of her favorite sisters as well as one of her favorite niece live there. What’s not to love about Texas? And I have another reason I like the place–a really sweet friend lives there that I’d love for you to meet. And we just might get a peek into her office. 😀 Here she is . . . Linda Broday! 20150412_155251_resized I first met Linda when she won a contest our writers’ group hosted. I asked her if she could come up and speak to our group, and she happily drove up in her motor home at her own expense! Talk about a great lady! Me- Do you always write in your office? If not, where else do you write.

Linda: I always write in my office. I require a large monitor because I have vision problems and need everything enlarged. And too, the atmosphere in there inspires my creativity. That is so very important, especially since I’m having to write three books a year. Just crazy. But I love this journey I’m on and want to soak up everything along the way.

Linda Broday's office Me- Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

Linda: Outdoors on my patio. I love to listen to the birds chirping and the fresh air. Nature provides great inspiration.

Me- Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

Linda: Once I had to write in the car so I could meet a deadline. That’s probably the strangest for me, but I also wrote in the hospital when my husband was fighting cancer. I didn’t want to leave his side, especially since his time was short.

Me- Oh, wow, Linda. I’m wowed that you could think well enough to write your name, much less an entire book. You’re amazing! Me- Do you do anything before you write? Light a candle? Put on music? Waltz around the house?

 Linda: I put a low-calorie snack in my desk drawer for later because I seem to burn a lot of energy when I write. (Maybe it’s all the chase scenes and gunfights or it could be the tender love scenes. Hmmmm.) Sometimes I light a candle and breathe the fragrance. Peach is my favorite. Sometimes I meditate for a few minutes. Then I close my eyes and envision the scene I’m going to write in my head. I see it like a movie with my characters doing the acting. Once it’s clear in my mind, I begin to type. Candled

Me- Do you write every day?

Linda: Yes, I have to because it keeps me in touch with my and story. If not, I have to go back and read the last chapter or two to remind me where I am. I don’t want to have to lose time. I want to sit down and get right into my writing.

Me- What’s the atmosphere in your office?

Linda: It’s calm and peaceful. Everything is in its place. I can’t write with a lot of clutter. I have a lot of my favorite books around me. It’s as though the words of the authors I love flow around the room and drop into my head. Since I write western romance, I have things with a western-y feel sitting around and on the walls. All of it adds to the atmosphere that I need in order to create. _jpg

Me- If you play music while you write, how do you choose it?

Linda: I don’t play music. I tried once but it’s very distracting to me. I need silence. 20150412_130849_resized_1

I love the buffalo picture!

 Me- If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

Linda: Oh, I love this! The sky is the limit and I don’t have to worry about the cost. Here goes: One whole wall would be floor to ceiling windows that allows light so spill in, creating lacy images on the floor. I would look out into a beautiful garden. A small indoor waterfall would sit in one corner, filling the room with gentle, soothing splashes on the rocks. On the opposite wall would be a huge desk with  research books at my fingertips. Indoors flowers would fill every space and infuse the room with wonderful fragrance. The flooring would be dark, rich wood with colorful rugs everywhere. I would have a sofa with lots of pillows where I could take a nap when I wanted. Bookshelves from floor to ceiling crammed with all kinds of books. Oh, man, I don’t want to wake up from this dream! It’s too nice. Now, I just need to find a rich bachelor (preferably a cowboy) who yearns for love…..

Me- How did you get started writing?

Linda: I read a romance book (can’t recall the name right name right now) and hated the ending. I sat down and rewrote it the way I wanted. Doing that gave me confidence that I could write my own books. The first attempt was start and stop. It took me five years. But I did it and that was the best feeling in the world. One led to another and I was on a roll. Untitled-4

Me- Did you struggle as a new writer or were you blessed with sales from the word go?

Linda: I’ve had wonderful luck and I thank God for that. I began winning writing awards with my first book, Knight on the Texas Plains. Sales were pretty decent and set the stage for the second release. I was lucky though in that I already had an online presence before I published. That really helped. Having a following is priceless. Untitled-1

Me- What’s your process for starting a new book?

Linda: Once an idea (or sometimes only the characters) are in my head I let it steep like a good cup of tea. Usually for about a week. After I have their names and know a little about them, I do a loose outline. Then I do a little research about some of the details of the story. I don’t indulge in a lot of pre-writing stuff though. I like to sit down and just let the story unfold. See where the characters take me. I love the surprises that come along the way.

Me- Are there any how-to books you recommend for writers?

Linda: Painting With Words by Rebecca McClanahan – this is a great book that I think every writer should read no matter where they are in their writing. Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict by Cheryl St. John – this book covers almost every aspect of writing. I fully recommend it. 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias Writers’ Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

Just click on the link to find the book. 😀 Me- Do you write in more than one genre? Ever write under another name?

Linda: Except for one pirate story when I was first learning to write, I’ve always written western historical romance and never under another name. That pirate story will NEVER see the light of day. It’s awful.

LOL! Me- What piece of advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

Linda: Never, ever give up. Perseverance is the key to success. When something doesn’t work, try again. Take time to write the very best story that you possibly can. Find a good critique group and let them help you. Have patience and don’t get in a big rush because throwing a poor quality story out there will only hurt you.

Me- What are your latest books?

 Linda: My latest is a series called Bachelors of Battle Creek.  The first book – Texas Mail Order Bride – came out in January of this year and the second, Twice a Texas Bride, will be out next month, May 5th. The third – Forever a Texas Bride – comes out in December. (Not available yet for preorder.) Having all three of a series come out in the same year took a whole lot of fast writing. I’m so excited about this series that is about the deep bond that formed between three boys in an orphanage that follows for the rest of their lives. Each, for different reasons, have decided they will never marry. They’re so committed to remaining single that they form the Battle Creek Bachelors’ Club. In the first one, rancher Cooper Thorne thinks his life is finally on an even keel. He has his land and the ranch he wants and that’s enough. He gets the shock of his life one day when Delta Dandridge steps off the stagecoach claiming to be the bride he sent for. Cooper is fit to be tied and promptly sets her straight, then offers to pay her way to wherever she wants to go. She refuses to take a red cent and gets a job in the mercantile. He can’t keep from running into her at every turn, reminding him of everything he’s desperately trying to forget.

Me- Those sound wonderful!


Me- Do you have anything in the works?

Linda: I’m currently writing the first book in a brand new series called Men of Legend. It’s about three brothers who carry the last name of Legend. The first one is about Texas Ranger Sam Legend. After getting injured, he’s trying to protect a woman on the run and get home to his family’s Lone Star Ranch. Only an outlaw gang is trying to keep him from it. I’m having so much fun with this. Lots of twists and turns and I’m never exactly sure where the story is going to go.

I love reading a series, and yours sound like so much fun. I can’t wait to read them! Thank you so much, Linda, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Looking forward to seeing you again! So, guys, anything you want to ask Linda? What time her books are set in? Or maybe what conferences or classes or organizations she recommends? All you have to do is ask. She’ll be more than happy to answer!

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Have You Met Jean?

So far, I’ve been introducing you to people I know, love, and love to read. This week is no exception! Jean Brashear is one of those authors I love, love, love!

When I asked if I could talk to her about where she writes, she was more than happy to comply. (Thank you, Jean!)

Me: Do you always write in your office? If not, where else do you write.

 Jean: I just about never write in my office, nor do I do my first drafts on my computer. 🙂 I wander, thanks to my old-school Alphasmart.


Jean: The rocker where I often sit to re-read drafts and wield my red pen. (Behind me, the first 4 shelves are copies of my published books in various languages…the 4th shelf with Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars series in front of me, as it should be.:)

Me: Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

 Jean: My back deck under the live oaks, sitting in a cushion-y wicker rocker.


Me: Ooh, that sounds like a great place to be, writing or not! Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

 Jean: No physical place that weird. I save the weird for inside my head. 😉

Me: Do you do anything before you write? Light a candle? Put on music?

 Jean: Can’t write to music! Don’t want to influence where the story goes—I’m too busy feeling the characters and can’t afford to interfere with feeling the music.


Jean: And while we’re living in the Land of Make Believe, here I am, pretending that I actually write at my desk.;)


And this is her favorite part of her office. Can’t say that I blame her!

Me: Do you write every day?

Jean: Weekdays, yes. I save weekends for my honey.;)

Me: Did I mention she writes romance? No wonder! What’s the atmosphere in your office?

Jean: Not good for writing—though I have photos of my beloved, a comfy rocking chair and a dog I love. Too many reminders of business, otherwise, though!

Me: If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

Jean: I like mine fine, though a separate little writing shack might be fun. On the other hand, I get up and wander a lot in between scenes, and a lot of a book forms in my head during my rambles, so not sure one little building would work.

Wait—a tree house! Wow…I might need that. 😉

Me: How did you get started writing?

 Jean: My husband and I were having one of those “what do we want to do with the rest of our lives?” conversations when our last child was about to graduate. As an avid reader since childhood, I said “I’ve always thought it would be amazing to see my name on the spine of a book.” My honey, Mr. Pragmatic, basically said “What’s stopping you?” and proceeding to support me in every possible way as I took the leap into a dream I’d never imagined possible (and if I’d understood publishing better—don’t know I’d have had the courage! LOL)

Me: Are there any how-to books you recommend for writers?

Jean: How-tos just freeze me up. I SO wish I were a writer who could plan and follow the plan, but the reality is that I dive into the story and just feel my way through, however impossibly inefficient that might be. (And trust me…it is.:( )

Me: What’s your process for starting a new book?

Jean: We’re supposed to have a process?? (You’d think, after 40+ books, that I would, but truthfully, I have a few snippets of ideas rolling around, and most of it is just finding a scene that grabs me—and readers, I hope—and diving in.)

plotsJean: Here is the wall I recently created, thinking I could actually change myself and my process aka Jean Pretends She Will Actually Plot:

Me: Did you struggle as a new writer or were you blessed with sales from the word go?

Jean: I wasn’t one of those “I sold my first book” luckies, no. Got the rejection letters to prove it!

Me: Do you write in more than one genre? Ever write under another name?

Jean: I have written romantic suspense, women’s fiction and paranormal romantic suspense, but no other name.

Me:  What piece of advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

Jean: These days, though indie publishing is an option and one I’m loving, I would still urge a new writer to write more than one book before publishing any. And get help from experts—all of us need editing!

For one thing, things we think are on the page may not be—with the story so alive in our heads, we may not realize that we know things that aren’t coming across. I don’t mean endless details—readers don’t need to know all we have to know about our characters—but that what we think we conveyed may indeed not be what’s there.

We need objective eyes, and we have all seen our words way too many times to trust that we truly know what’s there!

I will say that the few times I’ve been able to let a story sit for at least a few months (a luxury I never had when writing for a traditional publisher) I never cease to see new things I could do with it to make it better.

Ergo my advice above: don’t publish your first effort. You will learn with each one and get better. All of us get better—or we’re doing something wrong if we’re not—over time.

Let that first effort sit and ripen while you write something else. Then go back and see what you think, see if fresh eyes helps you make the story stronger and better.

That said, your story is your story, and only you know what it should be. Get professional eyes on your work, but never be afraid to stick up for your vision of what your story really is.

Me: What are your latest books?

Jeans: I’m releasing my first-ever serial, a 3-part story (with a surprise connection to my Texas Heroes Sweetgrass Springs books) called The Book Babes.

Part One, Texas Ties, released on 3/15, Part Two, Texas Troubles, releases on 3/26, and Part Three will wrap up the story on 4/9. All are available for order/preorder at all retailers, and here are the links plus an excerpt:


Me: Do you have anything in the works?

Jean: I’m starting the next Sweetgrass Springs story—which totally changed, in the wake of the Book Babes and its surprise connection that I never saw coming.;) Hey, I like surprises, too!

Me: Thank you so much for letting us visit your office, Jean! That was fun!!!



















♪♫ The Eyes of Texas . . . ♪♫ or Yellowstone Pt 1

We’re coming up on the anniversary. Again. For family and friends of the Spess Gang, May 20, 1991, is a day that will live in infamy. Read about it here. 

But since Mom wasn’t a person who would not have liked us to mourn forever or go into retrograde for a week around that date, instead of going into all that, I’ll tell you about one of my shiny memories.

The family decided to go to Yellowstone on vacation. When I say the family, I mean The Family. The whole clan. Mom, Dad, all the sibs, married sibs, sibs-in-law, grandkids and (maybe) Grandmother. Aunt Phyllis and her husband, Melvin, went, too.

We packed into three pickup/campers and a car–complete with CB radios. 🙂 Everyone had “handles.” Mom decided to bleach her hair just before we went (not her best decision) so she was The Blonde Bombshell. G-Man is a pharmacist, so they called him The Pusher (short for Pill Pusher).

The first day we headed to Cousin Liz’s in Perryton, Texas. When we crossed the line from OkieLand in to Texas, I asked The Blonde Bombshell on the CB what Texas’s state song was, since she graduated from high school down there in Baja, Oklahoma. Without hesitating, she answered on the CB for all the world to hear,

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day! ♪♫

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away. ♪♫

Truckers cheered for her when she finished. 😉


I’m not sure why we went to Liz’s. When I map the way from C-Town to Wyoming, Perryton isn’t on a straight shot, but everybody LOVES being with Liz and her fam, so maybe that’s why.

By the time we got to Perryton, in the Texas panhandle, I was throwing up my socks. (And anything else remotely close to my tummy.) I was sick! Sick! Sick! for about twelve hours, then I got better.

G-Man came down with the illness next, and one by one, most of us caught it.

We left Liz’s the next day and drove into Colorado, and the scenery was gorgeous! I’m not sure where we spent that next night, but it seems as if we crossed a mountain and pulled into a camping area in a small valley.

Talk about beautiful! (If I could find the place on a map, I’d go back today!) There were mountains all around us. The clouds looked as if they tripped over those mountains, then sat there in the trees and laughed at us.

There was a large pond fed by a stream for us to fish in. A beaver the size of a Chocolate Lab (I promise, he was that big!) lived in the pond. So much fun to watch!

Brother Jeffrey was sick while we were there, and I’m sure he appreciated me having shared the illness. But he didn’t feel good enough to mention it. In fact, he was so sick, his moans echoed off the mountains and scared away the wild animals.

We usually cooked over a campfire on that trip. Aunt Phyllis was a marvel! She could fill a huge skillet with eggs, fried them just right (sunny side up and runny) then slipped the entire thing onto a plate without breaking a single yoke! That woman had talent!!! (You should have tasted her fried chicken! Y-U-M!!!)

We traveled on to Gunnison after that. Melvin had worked in that area on Taylor Lake back when he was a young man. It had been a job like the CCC, during the Great Depression, I believe, and he wanted to see it again.

Ever been to Gunnison or Taylor Lake? Oh, my stars! It’s one of the prettiest places on earth.

Here are a few pictures I found online. (Sorry. I wish they were mine.)

This picture is by Michael E. Gordon–


And this one is from Allison Bruning’s blog. 

allisonbruningIsn’t the lake surrounded by mountains just gorgeous? In case you go to Allison’s blog to read more about Taylor’s Crossing, what you’re reading is mostly fiction. We spent some time in the Taylor Lake area, and there’s nothing remotely scary. All my memories of the place are bright and happy! But if you like paranormal fiction, she has a good blog!

This post is getting a little long, so on TBT I’ll tell you more about our Big Yellowstone Trip.

Have you ever gone on a huge vaca with the whole family?

How did yours turn out?




Christian Women’s Fiction

Yesterday, I shared part of Make Me Howl. Today, I’m going to share the beginning of my first Christian Women’s Fiction. It’s nearly finished. I hope. 🙂

For now, I’m calling it TEXAS HEARTS, but I’m always open to a better idea. 🙂

Do they still hang horse thieves in Texas?

Buck tensed his muscles in his ready-to-run dance. Jessie stroked his neck and murmured, “Hang on, boy. It’s nearly time.”

Focusing on the ride, she walked Buck into position. The excitement built, adrenalin shot through her muscles like lightning strikes. Tugging her Stetson low so there was no chance of losing it, she leaned into the saddle, took a firm grip on Buck’s reins, inhaled, blew it out long and slow and booted him in the ribs.

He took off in an explosion of energy; she leaned into the run. She concentrated on the first barrel, the cheers of the crowd dimming to near silence. Spectator faces blurred past as they rounded second. Yes! It felt good. This is where she belonged.

Buck ran flat out as they charged the third turn. Heading into the pocket, he dug in, and the world shifted. Dipped. She snatched a breath and held tight to the saddle horn, her heart pounding as he fought for footing. He slid in the loose earth. She gave him his head, praying, by some miracle, he could stay on his feet.

Buck’s back left leg disappeared from under them. Fear tore through her as they dropped, then slammed into the ground. The saddle horn jerked from her grip.

He floundered, trying to get up. She kicked her foot free and tried to shove away from the panicked animal, but she couldn’t move. Her other leg was under him. Stories of riders being killed from similar falls flashed through her mind.

Buck fought his way to his feet, yanking her leg high in the air with her foot through the stirrup and leaving her head on the ground. His shod hooves cut so close, he kicked dirt in her face as he danced with anxiety.

If she could catch her breath, make him hear her, he might calm. But she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t find words to ease him.

He threw his head back, gathering himself as he looked for a way to escape the nightmare.

Slamming shut her eyes, she wrapped her arms around her head. God! Help me.

“Whoa! It’s all right, fella.”

The man’s soothing voice calmed her. Removing her arms, she was able to see a cowboy with dark red hair take his life in his hands. No! Getting in front of a panicked horse is suicide. She struggled to form the words, but he stepped in front of Buck and grabbed the bridle. “You’re all right, boy. Shhhh.”

Buck quivered all over, but the stranger in the black hat released one hand to stroke his neck.

Cowboys who’d been watching from the nearby arena fence surrounded her, released her foot from the stirrup and helped her to her stand. Weak as water, she stiffened her knees so she could walk.

She had to see about Buck. What would she do if she’d seriously injured him? Had she stolen him just to have to put him down?

Quelling the sobs gathering inside her, she dragged in a rough breath and stumbled to the man at Buck’s head. “Is he okay?”

He kept stroking Buck’s neck, the fabric of his crisply starched shirt sleeve pleating rather than wrinkling like hers. “He’s skittish as a green-broke colt. Can you take his head?”

With a nod, she threaded her fingers through the bridle. The man moved to Buck’s side, the fringe on his chaps swinging with each step. He ran his hands down each of Buck’s legs. “I think he’s all right.”

Her frozen insides started to melt at his words. As she blew out her pent up breath, a knife jabbed her in the ribs. The fall must have been harder than she realized. She slid her fingers over the hurt. No blood. That was a good thing.

The man took his gaze from Buck for the first time to glance at her with eyes as green as tree leaves. “You all right?”

The inspiration came when G-Man and I went to the Jim Shoulders Rodeo in Tulsa a few years ago. They had cameras and a big screen showing closeups of all the action in the arena.

Even when one girl’s horse went down with her on the third barrel, we saw it all. Almost as soon as they were down, they were surrounded by fence sitting cowboys, who quickly got her and her horse on their feet.

So that’s the beginning of my first nearly finished Christian Women’s Fiction. Thoughts?



A few days ago, I wrote about WHY I DO what I do. Here’s a little of it–

Right now, I’m taking a story I wrote last year, and using it to make a whole new story. A story where the people act like the people I know. Maybe they’re a little nicer than I am or have different opportunities, but I don’t read books to hear an echo of my life. I read to see how real people could live and truly love life.

And I want to write the stuff I like to read.

My characters aren’t Goody-Two-Shoes. They’re too boring, and I’m not sure I’d know what those characters are all about, anyway.

I’m trying to write about real people who live and love and learn what life can be like. And yes, there’s a spiritual aspect to it.

So that’s why I do what I do.

Now a request: I’d appreciate your prayers on my behalf. Not that I’ll get rich and famous, but that I’ll keep going if this is God’s will.

And if it’s not, would you ask him if He’d let me know?

I got some great responses! (Bloggers live for comments. We love it when the conversation goes both ways.) One woman thought I was brave to ask that of God. I love it when anybody thinks I’m brave. (I’m really kind of a chicken.)

One of my sisters answered,

Yea!  You know I love to read inspirational fiction, I’m so very happy you decided to give it a try.  In fact, I believe this is where God has been guiding you.

“If He leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it”.  I think that little saying is for more than trials, I think it’s for where ever He leads you. (I added the bold letters.)

I wanted to share with y’all what happened. And thank you.

I have to believe you’re right, Deb. I’ve been having some trouble finding time to work, but I got a ton done yesterday during a professional football game. (Gary hasn’t watched professional football in years.)

Then the devil infiltrated my thinking. I got to wondering if this was the kind of story the editors are looking for. Should I keep working on a story like this or start yet another new one. (Which would keep me from trying to sell for another several months.)

Here’s a quick synopsis of the part I was worried about: A young woman on her own has her horse go down in a barrel race. A family takes her home, gives her a place to stay and feed her and her horse. I worried that the editors would think nobody in today’s world would be dumb enough to take a perfect stranger home with them. That the story wasn’t believable.

In the last Inspirationals I bought, three little girls are trying to find a wife for their dad, so they post an ad in the local paper. Cute, sweet story. In a historical one I read just before that (same author) a young woman goes west without telling her family so she can experience the kind of life she reads about in her paperbacks.

The first line in mine is, “Do they still hang horse thieves in Texas?” I know. I’m not normal. 🙂

So I’m praying about it.

Then, in my Beth Bible study, we looked up Isaiah 58:7 (we were supposed to read 5-7, but all I saw was 7.) Here’s what I read:

Share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter

The entire scripture says, “5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,  only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice    and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free    and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them,  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I’m not sure how I missed that I was supposed to read all of 5-7 or why I didn’t see the entire sentence starting at “Is it not to share . . . ” and ending with “flesh and blood.”

I’m think I might have had an answer. 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’m WOWED! that God answered me so quickly. I’m WOWED! that he heard your prayers on my behalf.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sell another book, but I know