Friday, May 11, 2018

Trethewey Releases second Highland Romance

Betting the Scot by Jennifer Trethewey

Betting the Scot
Jennifer Trethewey
C. 2018
Historical Romance

3.99 eBook
20.99 Print
Buy on Amazon 

About the Book
Declan Sinclair is a Highlander who believes his dreams never lie. When he spots Caya at a public house, he knows instantly she is the woman in his dreams—his future wife. Though her brother had promised never to gamble again, he engages Declan in a card game—and the prize is the lovely Caya.

Caya Pendarvis has no time for childish things like dreams or fairy-tales or love. She’s the sacrificial lamb on her way to the far north of Scotland to wed a wealthy merchant in exchange for settling her brother’s gambling debts.

Winning at cards is one of the many things Declan Sinclair does well. Unfortunately, the ability to court a woman—a talent he lacks—is the only skill he desperately needs to win Caya’s heart.

My Review
Trethewey’s Balforss house books are a delight to those who adore hunky historical bawdy but fun and fairly clean romance. I know, I needed to hide the cover from my hubs, too. There’s just no comparison. As mentioned in the description, it’s a family saga of stand-alones, tied by setting and characters.

Who doesn’t love a guy who buys a bathtub for a wife he has only dreamed about? I admit I fell for Declan in the first book, his sweetness and cluelessness, but braver than brave and true-hearted beyond belief.

At a time period where women, even those who’ve reached the great age of twenty-five and orphaned but under the “care” of a destructive sibling, Caya is at the bottom of the well of opportunity. She seems pretty resigned to her fate, the truth of which is only hinted at through her naiveté. The horror of it comes at a terrible price and sets up the next story beautifully, which makes me yearn to read it. In the meantime, first sight of an eager and yummy dark-haired Scot who keeps staring at Caya with a too-familiar ogle makes her look back. And again. And so begins a truly epic love affair, pirates and all.

Held at bay by wise Uncle John, Caya and Declan weather issues such as unbearable longing, accusations of witchcraft, and a quasi-amorous vicar contending for Caya’s hand. While it might have detracted from the romance, I would have been interested to see more of the effects of the gossiping nearby villagers after Caya performs a heroic task.

Nevertheless, the Sinclairs are a lovely family and a few hours in the Highlands with men of virtue and their dynamic lasses is truly a delight.

About the author:
Trethewey claims to have fallen in love with the Highlands and all things Scottish: the people, their language, cuisine, customs, idioms, humor, history, intense sense of pride, and, most of all, the land--the perfect setting for sweeping romantic tales of love, strife, and glory. As they say, Scotland is pure dead brilliant! She’s an actress, former co-artistic director of a professional theater company, and she and her husband operate an improv comedy club. They live in the Midwest. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Wisconsin State Parks Natural History with Scott Spoolman

New from Wisconsin Historical Society Press
April, 2017

Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History
By Scott Spoolman
Paperback: $24.95
ISBN: 978-0-87020-849-2
252 pages, 88 color photos and 6 maps, 7 x 9 
Ebook $15.99

Buy on Amazon 
Buy on Barnes and Noble

From the volcanoes that poured deep layers of lava rock in the northwest, to the glacial masses that molded the land in the north and east,  Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History (ISBN: 978-0-87020-849-2, Paperback: $24.95) offers a deeper understanding of our state's dramatic natural history, and explores the complexity behind the impressive landscape we see today. This account of nature's evolution instills in readers the value of Wisconsin's parks that goes beyond just beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities; these areas provide a window into the distant past.

Author and science writer Scott Spoolman uses his accessible storytelling style to take readers through twenty-eight of Wisconsin's parks, forests, and natural areas where evidence of the state's striking geologic and natural history are on display. Spoolman sheds light on the current landscape, drawing connections to ancient geologic processes, the evolution of the flora and fauna, and the development of human settlement and activities. This book includes a selection of detailed trail guides for each park, which hikers can take with them on the trail to view evidence of Wisconsin's geologic and natural history for themselves.

Spoolman’s exploration of Wisconsin through the natural history of its state parks helps natives and visitors alike know Wisconsin in a more meaningful way. Spoolman’s journey and revelations almost feel as though he’s sharing our state from the inside out.

In his latest book, Wisconsin State Parks, he guides the reader through five areas of unique topography, examining what makes twenty-six of our nearly fifty state parks special, as well as two of our dozens of state forests.

Opening with a chapter on the “big picture” of knowable history, Spoolman takes the reader on a wholly readable and understandable geologic survey of what is now Wisconsin, from the earliest speculations of forming and reforming land masses to the ages from the Cenozoic to Precambrian periods. Using charts and figures, he breaks information into easily digestible and interesting bites which lay the groundwork to understand the current topography. The author then moves into early animal and human occupation which have also affected the land for thousands of years.

The five areas Spoolman identifies are The Rift Zone of the northwest corner of the state, The Driftless Area of the southwest corner, Carved by Water and Ice for the south-central area, The Glacial Showcase of southwestern Wisconsin and the Bones of the Land for the northeast quadrant. Wisconsin is a large state with many varied features. He selected five or six parks or forests for an intimate look in each area.

Each area chapter opens with several pages of general geologic history, including figures and excellent definitions of terms used to explain the described features. I turned to the Glacial Showcase first, as I had lived near the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest for thirty years. The forest unit and guided trails at Parnell Tower and High Cliff were spot on. I now live in the “Driftless” area, and checked out Spoolman’s description of Wildcat Mountain, which I enjoyed.

Using photographs from different times of the year, late summer and mostly fall, the author showcases the best of natural Wisconsin. For parks such as Rock Island in Door County, he also includes a little light keeper history. Native American tribal people impacts through the ages are also noted. Spoolman takes the reader on a guided walk through forty of the trails in the described parks, adding personal observations and interesting facts along the way.

What you won’t find is specific information about the Wisconsin Park system, such as entrance fees, camping, directions or addresses, or various permits needed.

Spoolman’s bibliography is an excellent resource guide for those who want to know more, and an index is helpful. Easily readable, recommended for junior high and up. Families and hikers will appreciate learning more about our state. Small enough to take on a hike or camping, having Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History will add to your nature experience.


How did you decide to write a book like this, and what’s unique about this book compared to other Wisconsin Parks guides?
I wanted to share my fascination about the geology and natural history of Wisconsin with its variety of landscapes and land features, and found the State Parks to be perfect entry points for taking journeys back in time, so to speak. On the park trails, one can see the evidence that geologists, ecologists, archeologists, and historians have used to tell the stories of what happened in Wisconsin’s distant past. What makes the book unique is a narrative flow that includes just enough geology to give readers the background they need to fully appreciate each park story without bogging down in geologic concepts and terminology. I also include trail guides that I wrote after taking my own hikes, designed to help readers to see for themselves the evidence that scientists and historians have used to construct the stories of the park areas.

Who do you hope will spend the most time with this book and how you hope readers will use it?
It should appeal to a wide range of people, including those who have enough time to do some traveling and who like going to the parks. They will enjoy learning how some of the amazing features within the parks were formed and what went on in the parks since ancient times. Also, young parents might enjoy having this book when they take their children to the parks, because it will help them to answer some questions the kids might ask about how things got to be the way they are there. And finally, I think school age youngsters who are motivated to read and learn in combination with their trips to the parks would appreciate this book.

Which Wisconsin Park do you find the most unique and why?
That’s a tough question. They are all unique, each having its own interesting story, which makes it hard to pick favorites. Copper Falls State Park has a complicated but fascinating geological story and a haunting beauty that transports visitors back to an ancient time. It combines striking features—deep rocky gorges, impressive waterfalls, and the confluence of two wild rivers—that make it among my favorites. But I could say something similar about most of the other parks I wrote about.

Do you have one park in particular that every Wisconsinite should try to visit?
I’d rather list a small number, one from each region, that people could choose from: Interstate State Park in the northwest; Governor Dodge State Park in the southwest; Devil’s Lake in south-central; Rib Mountain in the north; Kettle Moraine State Forest in the southeast; and Peninsula State Park in the northeast. That’s a Top 6, but I could easily have made a Top 10 or 20, all of which I’d recommend everyone see.

What do you hope for the future for Wisconsin’s Park system?

 The parks should be preserved and maintained as public parks, funded mostly by public means, as opposed to user fees, so that they don’t become too expensive for most people.  They should be preserved in their natural conditions as much as possible for the benefit of future generations and for all wildlife that depend on them for their habitats and survival. And they should be fully funded so that trails and other public services in the parks do not deteriorate. 

Author Scott Spooman is a science writer who has focused on the environmental sciences, especially those stories of natural science and the environment related to Wisconsin and surrounding states. After earning a master's degree from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, he worked for several years as an editor in the publishing industry, specializing in textbooks and other educational materials. Since 1996, he has worked as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of outlets and has coauthored several editions of a series of environmental science textbooks.

Monday, April 9, 2018

New Hiking Guide from Rob Bignell

Day Hiking Trails of St. Croix County
Rob Bignell
Atiswinic Press
ISBN: 978-1948872027
$9.95 Print, $0.99 Ebook
136 pp
Buy on Amazon

New travel guidebook describes more than 100 day hiking trails in Wisconsin’s St. Croix County.

Day Hiking Trails of St. Croix County by Wisconsin author Rob Bignell, covers trails in Hudson, River Falls, New Richmond, Somerset, Baldwin, Woodville, Glenwood City and the surrounding area, including Amery, Osceola, Spring Valley, Clayton and Clear Lake as well the Minnesota communities of Stillwater, Woodbury and Afton.

“St. Croix County is chockful of great trails and hidden wonders,” Bignell said. “You can stand before a waterfall that plunges a fifth of the way down a 20-story canyon. You can walk beside premier trout streams running through picturesque fields and charming woodlands. You can stand atop the Midwest’s largest earthen dam.”

A state park, a national riverway, great city parks, and a variety of other public lands all are open to hikers, bicyclists and other outdoors lovers in St. Croix County. Many are free while the others carry a nominal entrance cost.

Bignell grew up just two miles east of the St. Croix County line and has hiked many of its trails since childhood. He is a 1989 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he majored in journalism and English.  

The book provides a plethora of information about each featured trail, including:
• Driving directions to the trail
• Where to park and find the trailhead
• Course the trail takes
• Scenic points to look for on the trail
• Wildlife and flora you might spot
• Interesting tidbits about regional geology and history
• Best times to hike the trail

“These trails are perfect for families with children,” Bignell said. The trails run from a tenth of a mile to seven miles in length, with most only one to three miles long.

“Day Hiking Trails of St. Croix County” is the latest in several bestselling hiking guidebooks Bignell has authored. Last year, his “Best Sights to See at Great Smoky Mountains National Parks” spent more than two months at No. 1 on’s bestsellers list for Travel>Tennessee ebooks. Several other books about Wisconsin, Minnesota, and national parks have hit No. 1 on lists during the past five years.

More than three years of research went into the book. Bignell’s son Kieran accompanied him on a number of those hikes.

An avid backpacker and long-time editor, Bignell is uniquely qualified to write about hiking, especially for families. Bignell has served in the Army National Guard and taught middle school students in New Mexico and Wisconsin. A former newspaper and magazine editor in California, his journalism work has won several awards, from editorial writing to sports reporting. In 2001, The Prescott Journal, which he served as managing editor of, was named Wisconsin’s Weekly Newspaper of the Year. 

This is Bignell’s 21st hiking guidebook, almost all of which focus on Wisconsin and Minnesota. He now lives with his son in western Wisconsin.

Friday, April 6, 2018

epic new sci fi series from Frank Dravis

The Foundry by Frank Dravis

The Foundry
Frank Dravis

c. Jan 2018
$3.49 ebook
$12.89 print

Buy on Amazon

About the Book
A storm of greed and lust for global domination is rolling through the forests of Mount Mars, on the planet Dianis. The assault crashes against the walls of an idyllic town called Wedgewood. Over the walls Paleowright soldiers and their troglodyte allies climb and meet the human defenders sword against teeth, and shield against claws. In a staggering retreat, the defenders fight the first battle to save their planet from tyranny and galactic exploitation. Outnumbered, the citizens and mercenaries of Wedgewood stand shoulder to shoulder and send the rally call to their brethren. 

For IDB Chief Inspector Achelous, if Wedgewood falls the plans to protect the planet from Nordarken Mining fail as well. Those plans rest on the forge in Wedgewood's foundry. Ruthless in its insatiable demand for a rare mineral, Nordarken ignores the federation law – ULUP -- that protects the isolated, primitive planet. Destroying whole cultures to satisfy their avarice is just the cost of doing business, but for Achelous, a ULUP enforcer, it's his job to protect the defenseless. 

The politics authorizing ULUP are complex, and Nordarken is a master of manipulation. Ordered to leave Dianis, Achelous and his team face an excruciating dilemma. In a surprise, as the story of Dianis unfolds, Achelous learns he is not alone against both the global and galactic powers. Marisa, a trader princess, and Christina, an Ascalon Defender, respond to Wedgewood's rally call, but as provincials, they are unaccustomed to stellar intrigue. 

The defense of liberty for Dianis starts here, in The Foundry. 

My Review
Epic in length and subject, Dravis’s sci-fi fantasy far distant future world is at heart a passionate treatise on environmental protection.

When a valuable mineral is found on a distant planet that also features beings with untapped powers that could affect the tide of galactic war, the race is on to plunder Dianis’s resources no matter the law.

The Foundry features Archelous, a man living a mysterious double life as an embedded native on an undeveloped world while also trying to defend that world from intergalactic turmoil. Dravis’s world-building skills are finely developed, as are his very real complex characters. While I love sci-fi fantasy, I occasionally found the details overblown and admit to skipping through some parts to pick up the threads of what, at first, was a story within a story. But unlike other lengthy books I had to put down for a time due to other projects, I found I was able to pick up the story again within a page of reading.

My caveat to readers is that you will want to set aside goodly chunks of time to immerse yourself in this complicated and challenging story. Characters from a number of different environments and philosophies unite to protect not only one world, but ethics in general. Told in numerous points of view throughout, readers may occasionally need to backtrack to determine the new speaker as there is little attempt to separate these viewpoints and introspection can be muddled. The characters are unique and fresh, however, and quite engaging as they battle for justice against their own kind as well as all manner of sentient beings. Archelous is heroic, but I found myself rooting for Outish. And to learn who those folks are, you’ll just have to read.

About the Author
Frank DravisLiving along the Mississippi River, Frank Dravis has leveraged his many life experiences to write The Foundry, the first book in the Dianis, A World In Turmoil series. He was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan where he and his father cruised the Great Lakes. His father often chose to go out on the lake when it was empty, on the roughest days. Frank spent six years in the US Navy chasing Soviet submarines during the Cold War. His love of the sea is reflected in The Foundry, a love he has shared with his wife and two girls. Frank's care for Earth and the stewardship of their land in Wisconsin are reflected in the culture and ethos of the Timberkeeps. 
He has two degrees, a Bachelor of Computer Science and a Master of Business Administration. Those degrees have been integral to his professional life where he has worked in a variety of roles from software engineer, to marketing executive, to chief information officer, at such prominent firms as SAP and Organic Valley. The technical and scientific acumen he gained through those endeavors is demonstrated in the series in the effort to make the Dianis brand of science practically possible somewhere in the galaxy today. Follow the Turmoil series on Facebook

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Council for Wisconsin Writers announces contest winners


Sixteen Wisconsin writers have won First Place and Honorable Mention in the Council for Wisconsin Writers contests for work published in 2017. The Council will award each winner $500 and a week-long writing residency at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point. Honorable mentions will receive $50 and a residency at Painted Forest, Valton, WI. Awards will be presented at the Council’s annual banquet to be held this year on May 12 in Milwaukee.(see below)

Matt Cashion of La Crosse has won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award for Our 13th Divorce, published by Livingston Press. 
Honorable mention goes to Kathleen Ernst of Middleton for Mining for Justice, published by Midnight Ink.
Dave Zweifel and John Nichols, co-authors of The Capital Times, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, and both of Madison, share the Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award.
Heather Swan of Madison receives honorable mention for Where Honeybees Thrive, Pennsylvania State University Press.
Matthew Guenette of Madison takes the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award for his Vasectomania, University of Akron Press.
Honorable mention goes to Crystal Spring Gibbins of Washburn for her Now/Here, Holy Cow Press.
Shelly Tougas of Hudson has won the Tofte/Wright Children’s Literary Award for Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press.
Dean Robbins of Madison is receiving honorable mention for Margaret and the Moon, Knopf.
Bob Wake of Cambridge is winner of the Zona Gale Award for Short Fiction for “Mudstone,” Wisconsin People and Ideas.
Matt Cashion, La Crosse, receives honorable mention for “What Kills You,” Carolina Quarterly.
Ronnie Hess of Madison is receiving the Kay W. Levin Short Nonfiction Award for “Berlin Letters,” Poor Yorick Literary Journal.
Tamara Thomsen, Paul Reckner and Richard J. Boyd all of Madison share honorable mention for “Solving the Mystery of the SS. Lakeland,” Wisconsin Magazine of History.
Ed Werstein of Milwaukee has won the Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award for five individual poems.
Honorable mention goes to Margaret Benbow of Madison.

Contest winners and honorable mentions were selected by out-of-state judges.
Friends of Lorine Niedecker is receiving the Christopher Latham Sholes Award. This award, which includes a $500 prize, is named for Christopher Latham Sholes (1819–1890), a Wisconsinite who is credited with inventing the first practical typewriter and honors an individual or organization for outstanding encouragement of Wisconsin writers. The Friends of Lorine Niedecker is dedicated to preserving and expanding the legacy of Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) who is widely recognized in the world of poetry as the only woman associated with the Objectivist poets.

The public is invited to celebrate our state’s fine writers at the CWW’s Awards Banquet at 
11 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. Banquet tickets must be reserved by Saturday, May 4.

More information about the winners, judges, banquet registration, and the Council for Wisconsin Writers can be found at its website,

Thursday, March 29, 2018

4 Groovy Upcoming Writer Perks You Don't Want to Miss!

Special Upcoming events all around the state - Enjoy!

Writing Women Back into History. Featuring author Mary Sharratt and UW-La Crosse and Viterbo professors Jodi Vandenberg-Daves, Susan Crutchfield, and Keith Knutson, the panel discussion will focus on how the novelist and the scholar research and write the history of “overlooked” historical figures.

Writing Women Back into History will take place on April 15 at 2 PM in the UW-La Crosse Student Union, 521 East Ave. North, on the second floor. There will be a Q&A session and a book signing following the discussion. Admission is free and open to the public.

UntitledTown 2018       Green Bay, WI, April 19-22, 2018

I'll be at Green Bay on Saturday and Sunday! 
Sharing about Critique Groups on Saturday afternoon and on a panel Sunday at noon.


Join our supportive community of writers for a two-day conference, May 11-12, Oshkosh Convention Center. We offer over a dozen workshops on the craft and business of writing designed to inspire and guide your creative journey.

And, I'm not ashamed to admit, my favorite - Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat, Inc.
where I will also be for the week.

The next Bookcamp will be held May 20 to 26, 2018, at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa (, which is 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee and near West Bend, Wisconsin, and about 2 hours from Chicago. It can easily be reached from State Highway 41.

Friday, March 9, 2018

debut inspirational fiction from Emily Conrad

Justice by Emily Conrad

Christian romance
Pelican Ventures
March 2018

Ebook $4.99

Buy on Amazon 

About the Book
Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. As Brooklyn wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake, she can't bring herself to tell him the truth. To make matters worse, if the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?

My review
At the core, this story’s title is the one-word bare truth of each character’s reality. Revenge, payback, responsibility, love, forgiveness, and loss all expose the depth of faith and steer the course toward Justice.

Friends from childhood, Jake and Brooklyn can’t seem to figure out what being in love with each other might look like. Their buddies and parents all expected them to marry long since, but Jake and Brooklyn explore relationships with others while they learn to navigate the scary world of responsible adulthood. When the time is finally right for them to move toward each other, crisis inflamed with outside jealousy steps between them. It takes ever-maturing belief to weather the storms, and a lot of help from their friends in an attempt to step back and find the bigger picture.

Jake is a driven young man, full of life and faith, overcoming the devastating death of his father and rising above to operate a popular business while making a difference, or trying to, in the lives of young people at church. Jake tries to follow in the footsteps of his bigger-than-life father, as well as fight the good fight of faith and hormones in the teenagers he wants to influence. He just can’t seem to work up the courage to show his longtime female buddy how he feels. Brooklyn is a naïve young woman who tortures herself by living in the shadow of her dysfunctional and cruel mother. She tries to convince herself that she’s not good enough for anyone, especially God, but has the sense to reach out to a wonderful group of women role models and finally, the person she’s leaned on for most of her life, Jake. When everything goes south, it’s grow up or shut up time. Jake falls back on his deep-seated anger while Brooklyn begins to understand the meaning and sacrifice of forgiveness. Watching their journeys crisscross and wander is a delight. Well-done.

Most of the side stories are woven beautifully into the thread of the story; the biggest one, that of the business competitor, feels a little like a shiny thread that is rough against the grain. While it’s more realistic to be on the side of the victim and not truly understand the hows of the vengeance-seeking little demagogue, I am left feeling a little puzzled. It’s like the scratchy tag on the inside of your shirt. Jake has some growing-up to do, and his business rival helps him learn, on a lesser scale, the lesson in forgiveness that Brooklyn is teaching him through her own faith expedition.

Told through multiple viewpoints, this debut novel is rich in Christian faith portrayal, and not shy about the depth and realities of sin. The characters have great dialog and emotional depth which spoke to me. Those who read deeply inspirational romantic fiction will find much to love about Justice.

About the Author
Emily Conrad writes Christian fiction. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two 60+ pound rescue dogs. Some of her favorite things (other than Jesus and writing, of course) are coffee, walks, and road trips to the mountains. She also blogs and offers free short stories at