Meg Mims Celebrating Double or Nothing With Giveaway

Meg photoMeg Mims is an award-winning author of an 1860s mystery series. To celebrate the release of her new novel, Double or Nothing, she is touring the blogosphere and giving away an e-book of Double Crossing or Double or Nothing. To win a copy of one of Meg’s books, simply leave a comment about why you like reading mysteries.

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

I started writing when my daughter was three years old. I wanted to write a book because what I found on the shelves didn’t satisfy me, and I thought I could do better. It sure took me a while to figure out that yes, I could do better — but it wasn’t easy! I still laugh about that. I took a lot of “breaks” since then, sometimes a month, and once a four-year fallow period – before my non-fiction publications stacked up, and my first published novel was released. My 26-year old daughter is now my main beta-reader and editor.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I use an extensive questionnaire from Noah Lukeman’s books – The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens, for each main character plus the villain. The minor characters get less detailed, but knowing their backgrounds does help. I keep a “book bible” to track characters’ physical features, including photos I might use to inspire me – like the late actor Pete Duel for Ace Diamond and the early 1900s actress Mary Miles Mintner. I also use historical maps to keep track of a particular setting, like Sacramento or San Francisco, Omaha and Chicago, plus I create a timeline of events. They all help to keep me on track.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I plot extensively for my full novels. Total plotter! My outline can be up to twenty pages! For my novellas, I tend to “pants” it – keep an outline in my head, keep it fresh and flowing. But then I’m stuck with multiple revisions. Sigh.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder DoubleorNothing 500x750 (3) (2)mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

I used to believe plot was far more important in a mystery — until learning that characters drive the plot, and the emotions keep things from getting boring. I try to keep a healthy balance. It’s worked so far, since Double Crossing earned a Spur Award. I’m hoping readers find Double or Nothing just as balanced.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Oddly enough, the biggest challenge so far has been finishing the sequel, Double or Nothing! The pressure was incredible, since Double Crossing won the Spur for Best First Novel. Oy!! Would I be a “one-book wonder?” But I’d already planned book 2, so I had to doggedly plot, research and keep writing – despite self-doubt and fear. And some big upheavals in life. I hope readers enjoy it as much as Double Crossing.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

I wake, take dogs outside, feed them, take them back out, take care of cat while my coffee brews. Then it’s breakfast – and after that, I’m on the laptop no later than 9 a.m. I don’t shut it down until 10 p.m. or later. It depends on what current writing projects I’m juggling with promotion or blogging, emails and such, but I try to write something (even a blog post questionnaire like this) every day. I work pretty much every day of the week, except Sunday mornings and time I “take off” for “lunch with friends,” errands or evening meetings. It’s pretty busy, but I do love it.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Three words — perseverance, patience, and discipline.

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

I’m totally addicted to “Person of Interest,” with Jim Caviezel, and the other actors are great too. The only other TV show I watch is “NCIS,” with Mark Harmon. Love the characters and “family” atmosphere. That’s gonna be hard when the show ends.

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I’m working on two mystery series, one a collaboration with another award-winning author, plus I plan to release several more contemporary novels this year.

Clocks and time play a big part in any late bloomer’s life. And time plays a vital part in every mystery.

Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western. The sequel, Double or Nothing, is now out!

Meg also wrote two contemporary romance novellas, Santa Paws and The Key to Love. Her short story “Seafire” is included in the charity anthology Hazard Yet Forward to benefit a fellow writer battling breast cancer. She earned an M.A. from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program in 2010 and is a member of RWA, WWA, Women Writing the West, Western Fictioneers and Sisters in Crime. Born and raised in Michigan, Meg lives with her husband, a “Make My Day” white Malti-poo and a rescue Lhasa Apso, plus a drooling black cat. Her artistic work is in watercolor, acrylic and pen/ink media.

Join Meg on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and on her Blog.

Endorsed Double Crossing 500 x 750Book 1 – DOUBLE CROSSING

A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed  … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

BUY LINKS:  Amazon for Kindle, B&N for Nook, Smashwords

Hardcover Large Print Edition: Click here for buy links – Amazon or B&N

Audiobook edition: or Amazon


A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.

October, 1869: Lily Granville, now heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules in Sacramento, California. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory for a quick “killing,” but his status as a successful businessman fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of unforeseen consequences.

Despite Lily’s protests that her new husband has been framed, Ace is dragged off to jail as the culprit. Evidence mounts against him. Lily must learn who was actually behind the diabolical plan… and save Ace from the hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?

BUY LINKS — Amazon for KindleB&N for NookSmashwords

To win a copy of one of Meg’s books, simply leave a comment about why you like reading mysteries.

Women Who Defy the Forbidden Boundaries of Gender Roles

I am featuring an essay today by my writing friend and colleague in the Skagit Valley Writers League, Judy Kirscht, who has had her second novel published, The Inheritors, a book that I couldn’t put down.

Synopsis: Raised in Chicago’s Latino working class community during the Sixties, Alicia Barron uncovers her mother’s Caucasian roots when she inherits a time-worn mansion, the remnant of the estate of a Chicago industrialist who, she discovers, is her grandfather. Her search of the house takes her into the lives of past generations of women whose love carried them across forbidden boundaries, and into the conflict of class, nationality, and race that is the history of the city itself. The identity she finds there, however, leads to increasing conflict with her first great love, Ricardo Moreno, who wants Alicia to reject her gringo roots.

The InheritorsLand of our Mothers

by Judith Kirscht

When Heidi Thomas explores the life of her rodeo-rider grandmother in Cowgirl Dreams, she draws us into the life of one of those women who defy the forbidden boundaries of gender roles. We share a fascination for such women, and I think that, slowly over the years, they have created, for us, the same sort of freedom-seeking legends of the frontier for the men.

It is a little less obvious that the immigrant women of the cities contributed to the same identify-forming activity, but in marrying across class, nationality, and culture lines, I believe they did, and my novel, The Inheritors, explores the pain and anguish as well as the determination of such lives.

“Stick with your own,” Thelma O’Malley, advises in The Inheritors, and the large majority of both genders do just that. They hold tight to the security of the familiar town, religion, nationality or social class of their birth. For they know well, as Thelma says, that going beyond those boundaries spells trouble.

And trouble, of course, is what novels are about. In Cowgirl Dreams, it is written into Nettie’s DNA that she will be forever torn between the rodeo ring and her family and forever battle the opinion that she doesn’t belong in the ring. As Hispanic/Caucasian Alicia Barron searches through her mother’s family, she finds a long trail of women who, like her mother married beyond those boundaries. Those stories, like that of her grandmother, Lucetta, are potent mixes of great love and tragedy, but through all of the stories, there is an energy and determination that over the generations has shaped Alicia.

To be so drawn to the horizon beyond is to be American, but in the traditional male legend, the cowboy rides off into the horizon unencumbered by wife, children or any responsibilities beyond his own needs. This is not a woman’s tale. The women in The Inheritors bear the responsibility of shaping new roles for their children, and indeed, this is the conflict faced by women today.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Eighteenth Century French critic/ admirer of American democracy, decided the American experiment, though misguided, would succeed because of its women. It was the American women, he found, who carried and passed on the moral code of interdependence and community obligation and would, in the end, provide a counterbalance to individualism—a brand new concept he was sure would degenerate into selfishness. Food for thought. Indeed, I think deToqueville’s Democracy in America should be required reading in our high schools and colleges.

For now, the women in these novels reshape our idea of ourselves and the role we’ve played in the creation of America. Cowgirl Dreams focuses on the individualism half. In The Inheritors, I’ve focused on the ways these women shape the attitudes and identities of their children because I think this role is vital in the ever-transforming American culture, and because I think women will rediscover its importance very soon.


 Judy was born, raised, educated and married in Chicago, and raised her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. SheJudy photo went back to school as an adult and began to write, winning two writing awards from the university—one for a novel and another for an essay. She taught academic writing at the University of Michigan and continued at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was active in developing career paths for non-tenured faculty. Though she continued to write fiction during those years, she published largely professional articles and, finally, a textbook (Engaging Inquiry: Research and Writing in the Disciplines) with colleague, Mark Schlenz.

Judy lives in Washington State to write fiction full time and has two novels published: Nowhere Else to Go and The Inheritors.

Her books are available on her website, from her publisher New Libri and from

Meet Amy Hale Auker, Author and Ranch Hand

book coverAmy Hale Auker’s book, Rightful Place, won the Women Writing the West’s WILLA Literary Award for creative nonfiction and Book of the Year for essays by Foreword Book Reviews in 2012.

This is a beautiful book. It is a love story—love and sense of place are portrayed in vivid imagery. I can see the cowboys in their rigs, the old men in the coffee shop, talking about the weather. I can feel the prairie, the heat, the cold, the wind, the life that teems beneath the surface. It is poetry—Amy finds jewels in insects, spider webs and drops of dew in the dawn’s silver light. And it is a poignant memoir that will leave you wanting more.

Amy, why did you write this book?

Heidi, I was at a gathering of writers in 2011 and the question around the table was, “Why do you write?”  Before it got to me, a brilliantly talented man on my right said simply, “I can’t NOT write!”  And of course, that is true for many of us.  We can’t not write.  Rightful Place came about because I was in a creatively charged time in my life, writing long complicated “blog posts” about my current living situation and the natural world around me.  Fortunately, a kind man put a stop to my flinging those posts out into the world and showed me that they were, or at least most of them were, essays.  Andy Wilkinson made me read Verlyn Klinkenborg, Jeanette Winterston, Merrill Gilfillan, E. B. White, and other great essayists until I embraced the format as well as writing from a strong sense of place.  I was off and running.

Share with us your journey in compiling these essays and getting published.

Writing Rightful Place did not take very long.  I wrote essays for about a year and a half.  When I had a good-sized collection, I sent the manuscript to Wilkinson who was, by then, working with Texas Tech University on their series Voice in the American West.  Andy and I continued to work on the manuscript for about a year, mainly tightening up the loose strings, polishing on the language.  I probably printed and re-read it thirty times. Andy never micro-manages my writing.  He is, instead, a big-picture editor, saying things like, “Well, this is a good start!” or “You can do better than this.”  When the manuscript finally got to the head of the line and went before the advisory committee at the press, they decided to implement a peer review process since I don’t have any “credentials.”  I’ve never taken a writing class or a workshop, never been in a writing program.  The peer review process took several years and a re-structure of the order of the essays.  Andy actually split the opening essay into two… and put the first half at the beginning of the book and the second half at the end.  In the meantime, I was going through a huge upheaval in my personal life.  In the winter of 2007/2008, Andy asked me to write an introduction to the book.  I did write an introduction, but in the process, I also accidentally wrote another essay, “Legacy of Snakes and Stones.”  I believe that the period of time from 2006 to publication date 2011 was quite beneficial for this collection.

You’ve spent most of your life as a cowgirl on working ranches. How has that shaped your writing life?

Actually I have not spent most of my life as a cowgirl.  I don’t even like the word cowgirl.  I was born into a livestock family and have spent all of my adult life on large ranches, living in houses owned by those ranches.  Most of that time I was cooking for cowboy crews, doing laundry for cowboys, giving birth to a cowboy, homeschooling that little cowboy and his sister, cleaning up after cowboys, and moving from ranch to ranch with my ex-husband. Only in the last five years have I cowboyed for a paycheck.  The time living on working ranches shaped my writing drastically.  It is, basically, the only life I know intimately. At this point though, every time I step out of doors, I see the metaphors in the natural world.  The top of this ranch is 6700 ft with ponderosa pines.  The bottom is prickly pear and mesquite and gila monsters.  All this diversity and change in about twelve miles. I ride for hours and hours, miles and miles, trailing up or following slow moving mama cows.  By the time I get to my office, my head and heart are full to overflowing.  So, I show up at the page.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

Asked if they needed more!

 You have a novel coming out soon. What is this story about?

Winter of Beauty is set on a large Southwest commercial cattle operation.  It is a work of literary fiction about the working ranch cowboy living far off the pavement, in a somewhat antiquated way of life, and yet, also thriving in contemporary society.  This novel is a tribute not only to those men and women raising beef and families while working for paychecks on these ranches, but to the owners and managers who are trying to hold it all together and be good stewards of the land.  The title character, an infant named Beauty, is born in the last fourth of the book.  More than anything, this is a novel about belonging and beauty. 

 What books or authors have influenced your writing?

I mentioned some essayist above, and those authors will always be on my shelves. In the past several years, I have taken Stephen King’s advice to heart.  He says to read one thousand books for every one you write.  I haven’t quite met that goal, but I have not had television in my home since my father threw ours out when I was in the fourth grade.  I read.  Many times I read a lyrical genius and want to curl up and quit.  But reading great literature is necessary.  I rarely read genre fiction anymore.  Sometimes I read a book and think that I am learning what not to do… and then sometimes I read a great writer and wonder how in the hell they got me to go along on such a journey with them, specifically Junot Diaz and George Saunders recently. I am a huge David James Duncan fan.  Colum McCann inspires me toward excellence with each sentence. One of my favorite things is to read a strong female voice:  Louise Erdrich, Teresa Jordan, Jennifer Eagan, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx, Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, Lucia Perillo.   Lately I am reading poetry by Linda Hussa and Patricia Frolander (WILLA winner). 

 What project are you working on next?

You are going to be sorry you asked that question. Winter of Beauty is not, actually, my first novel.  It is my second novel.  The first one is The Story is the Thing.  Written in an old man’s voice, this novel is very dear to my heart.  I dream of Uncle Bill’s voice at night because I so loved hearing it as I was writing Story.  That novel is unconventionally structured and so has yet to find a publisher.  I am considering publishing it myself.  I am also working on a new novel for a character I had to cut from Winter of Beauty.  But my current hot project is another work of creative non-fiction for Texas Tech University Press.  It had a working title, but my editor doesn’t like it, so I am calling it “That Shadowy Something” that is taking up my days and nights as we prepare to move cows for a few weeks… and when I come back to my desk, I hope to see it more clearly.  On one wall of my office I have taped symbols of past and current and future projects… one of those projects is a chapbook of writing about writing, another is a book of short stories, another is a novel called Bobcat and the Lady about going all the way crazy and then coming all the way back.  This wall keeps me motivated and inspired and helps to jerk me past that evil thing called “writer’s block.”

 The truth is, I would always much rather talk about the process than the product.  The creative process rather than the nuts-and-bolts of writing and promotion.  The product is directly reflective of the process.  It is very important for me to show up at the page, every day, even if the page on some days is a little notebook tucked into my pack where I scribble ideas and phrases.  I still feel very connected to the page.  One thing I guard against when I am in my office is spending more time on promotion and publicity and the strange world of publication than I do on actually writing, actually swimming in the big sea of words and creativity. 

Amy’s bio: I write about the real world where things grow up out of the ground, where the miracle of life happens over andAmy photo over and over again, where people can and do survive without malls or Arby’s.

I want to produce something of value from a place where the bats fly, the lizards do pushups on the rocks, the bears leave barefoot prints in the dirt, the hummingbirds do rain dances in August, spiders weave for their food, and poetry is in the chrysalis and the cocoon.

I believe that what you put out there is what you get back, and that if we do the good work, stay true to the creative process, we will be rewarded.

  • I write and ride on a ranch in Arizona where I am having a love affair with rock, mountains, the pinon and juniper forest, and the weather.
  • As Rightful Place indicates, I truly believe that art and sense of place go hand in hand.
  • I believe that life is a miracle and it is demonstrated all around us in the natural world where things grow up out of the ground, birds build nests, bats fly at night, cows turn our national forests into healthy beef, beavers build dams, and flowers bloom in deep canyons where no one sees.
  • I married a working ranch cowboy when I was nineteen years old, and every ranch road I have walked has led me here to where I am today. Every moment on Texas ranches was a gift. Now that I am with my new love here in Arizona, I continue to be grateful for each day and each bend in the road.
  • I am the proud mother of two children who are now 21 and 17.  I am married to documentary film make, singer, and songwriter Gail Steiger.
  • For years I cooked for cowboys, cleaned up after cowboys, listened to cowboys tell stories, but for the past two years I have done my own time in the saddle. And I have even learned to rope in the branding pen.
  • And I write. Always I write. Essays, poetry, fiction, and sometimes a big mixture of all three.

Like me on facebook: Amy Hale Auker Author

I am on twitter as well, though only occasionally.

Books available on my website (always signed),, Texas Tech University Press website, Barnes&Noble, Hastings, etc. Wholesale from Chicago Distribution Center.

Pre-order Winter of Beauty here.


Arizona is Not Just Desert

Many of my friends have pictured me living in the sandy, seguaro cactus-filled desert of Arizona. But here in the North-central part of the state, we experience the best of a semi-arid climate near the mountains, near lakes, and many wonderful hiking trails. The weather, like my native state of Montana, can change from 70 degrees one Saturday to 34 and snow the next weekend and back again.

Mountains AZ

Prescott is bounded by the Santa Maria mountains to the north, the Bradshaws to the south and the Sierra Prieta to the West of which Granite Mountain is the dominate peak.

Snow & Pond Strawberry AZ

A snowy scene recently near Strawberry, AZ, on the way to Payson.

Prescott Hills 2Prescott itself is built among the hills.

Watson Lake Rocks

My favorite place, so far, to hike–Watson Lake amid the Granite Dells rocks.

Cottonwoods by Lake Watson

Also along the Watson Lake trail are groves of cottonwoods near Granite Creek which feeds into the lake.

I’m enjoying my new home in the “desert.”

Published in: on March 9, 2013 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Straight Dope, a Look at the American Drug Culture

This week we are taking a look at LeRon L. Barton’s book, Straight Dope: A 360 degree look at American Drug Culture.

Straight Dope coverStraight Dope is a book that asks the simple question – why are drugs so entrenched in America’s society? Instead of doing the same ol’ rigamarole song and dance and interviewing talking heads and experts, Straight Dope gets to the heart of the matter and talks to the people at ground zero – the drug addicts whose life revolves around getting high; the criminals who profit of the misery of the addicts; the teachers who deal with the children in drug abused homes; the drug counselors that try and balance breaking the addicts cycle of addiction while dealing with the bureaucracy of government politics; the legal marijuana growers’ battle against tobacco companies and how to thrive in the growing industry; and the parents issue of how they will prepare their children to just say no. Inspired by the late great Studs Terkel’s many works, Straight Dope is comprised of raw and uncut hard hitting interviews about the participants’ experiences, thoughts, opinions, and outlook on drug abuse, why or why not drugs should be legal, and how the government is handling the war on drugs. Removing nearly all of the questions, the interviews are more like monologues, allowing the reader to feel as if the subject is just, “talking,” instead of your standard interview. In addition to the real life accounts of people, Straight Dope also has spoken word pieces compiled of biting social commentary, as well as LeRon’s own personal reflections on his experiences with drugs.

How did you start writing?

I have always had a love for writing when I was younger. It was something about the written word and being able to create something out of nothing that always fascinated me. I come a family of artists: My grandfather can draw and paint, my aunt was into fashion design, my mother can draw and write, and my brother was an artist. The arts were encouraged, so I started out drawing and writing comic books, which lead to stories, attending Paseo Academy Fine Arts and honing my skills under the great Stan Banks. After volumes of poetry, stories, essays, and screenplays, I decided to tackle writing a book.

What was your goal in writing this book?

To show a complete view of drugs in America. I wanted to give the reader stories from all angles: The users, sellers, people who lost love ones, counselors, teachers, legal drug sellers, and parent who are raising their children in this age of rampant drug use. There is not one way of looking at drugs in America, but many different ways.

Any advice for a upcoming writer?

Keep at it and never give up. I don’t care if people don’t like your work or if you feel discouraged, never stop. There is always light at the end of the tunnel!

Here is an excerpt from Straight Dope:

Phillip, 24

Latino, calm, street kid

I am a native of Tuscon, AZ. I grew up with two older sisters and my mother. My father left when I was young, so I really don’t know about him. I came out to California on a split decision. I had been visiting here when I was younger, playing soccer and I liked it. Growing up in Tuscon was rough at times, having a mom struggling for a bit here and there, and a little bit of abuse from my father, but again, I was too young to remember that. Other than that, I had a pretty normal childhood. My relationship with my sisters is pretty good, I haven’t really talked with them, but were still pretty close. My mother and I are still good even though we’ve been out of touch.

Being a teenager and partying, I was getting into trouble a lot. In college I was playing soccer and had a back injury, so that’s when I started drinking heavy. Got depressed and was frustrated I suppose, just disappointed. I then started to get arrested, a couple of drunk-in-publics. I wasn’t holding down a job and so I figured at least a change of scenery and moved out to California with a soccer buddy of mine. There I started up messing with drugs again. Back in Tucson, I smoked a little weed, but out here there is better marijuana (laughs).

Coming to SD, we didn’t know anyone so we started camping out, staying where ever we could. Damn. Being in SD, it’s a lot cooler and there is a big cultural difference. More conscience heads, where Tucson was much more mellow, but it could get a little chaotic. In SD, there was just lots of energy.

When you drink, the drunk bone is connected to the drug bone, so once one moves, the other one moves with it. I think that’s what happens with addicts. A lot of times you decide to do something that you normally wouldn’t do, but when you are drunk your guard is down. You think you can try stuff, that’s probably how I got started, being in the streets.

My soccer buddy who I played with started using heroin and cocaine and it really scared me, so I backed away from it. I knew that doing that, it was kinda going over the edge. When I first did the heroin, it was euphoric, puts your body in a trance. Probably the most powerful thing I ever did. After that one time with heroin, I had to step back, have a reality check. I was still drinking, but all the harder I could not see myself being hooked. It’s really intense what it puts your body through. It can kill you eventually and that’s what kept it from escalating.

My soccer buddy that introduced me to heroin, he eventually OD’ed in his mom’s house. When I found out, it really bugged me out. It was pretty upsetting. After that I pretty much washed my hands of it. Losing him was tragic because he had a lot of talent, but got into drugs. I think that after his ACL injury, which was kind of a career ender, he just became depressed. Honestly, I don’t think he wanted to die, I just think he fucked up. Our relationship grew apart the more and more he got into it.

Did you ever try to tell him to stop?

Yeah, in my own ways. He would even say this is dangerous, but he knew the risks involved. Sometimes I just, I don’t know (pauses) what I could have told him to prevent his death. I pray for him still and think about him and his family.

With that happening, what are your views on drugs today?

I never looked at weed as a drug. Honestly, I think drugs should be legal across the board, regulated. People think that it will create more addicts but it won’t. It’ll just put the dopeman out of business. It wouldn’t be cut wit all the bullshit. That’s whats killing people.

If you could say anything to your friend you lost, what would it be?

Be careful with your life, it’s short.

LeRon Barton was encouraged by his mother to write, attended Paseo Academy LeRon BartonFine Arts High-school and was mentored by famed writer Stan Banks. Graduating from high-school in 1996, Barton continued to write and commit petty crime until 1999, when he attended college in San Diego, Ca. He later began writing screen plays and volumes of poetry. In 2010, he created, a website that featured writing, music, fashion, travel, and movies. After a turbulent 2012, Barton relocated to The Bay Area and started, “Mainline Publications,” an online publications firm that would release controversial works. The first project, Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture, was released in February 2013. Upcoming releases include, It’s Good To Be Alive, a collection of poetry, short-stories, and photography to be released in July 2013 and All We Need Is Love, a book about dating, relationships, heartbreak, and love, to be released in Nov 2013.

Visit Leron’s Author page and Straight Dope can be purchased at

The Whip, the Extraordinary Story of Charley Parkhurst

The Whip coverI recently read a fascinating novel, The Whip, by Karen Kondazian. The book is inspired by the true story of Charley Parkhurst (1812-1879) a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. It was not discovered until Charley’s death that “he” in fact was a woman.

As a young woman in Rhode Island, Charlotte Parkhurst fell in love with a runaway slave and had his child. The destruction of her family drove her west to California, dressed as a man, to track the killer.

Charley had an extraordinary life living as a man. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her. Charley was the first woman to vote in America (as a man). Her grave lies in Watsonville, California.

The Whip is Karen Kondazian’s debut novel. She is an award winning theatre actress and has starred in over fifty televKarenision shows and films, including the role of Kate Holliday in the TV movie, The Shootout at the OK Corral. Kondazian is also author of The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors.

Karen Kondazian discusses “The Whip” Novel with Peter Robinson

Video filmed at San Francisco’s Wells Fargo Museum in an original Concord Stagecoach– with NPR Peter Robinson interviewing Karen Kondazian on her novel, The Whip, based on the true story of Charlotte ‘Charley’ Parkhurst (1812-1879) (18) minutes)

Watch The Whip Audio Book Trailer

Video filmed in Los Angeles at Deyan Audio Services -producer of Audio Book- on the making of The Whip by Karen Kondazian– with narrator Robin Weigert  (Emmy nominee and star of HBO’s Deadwood–  played Calamity Jane)  and Karen Kondazian, author.

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