About Me

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Welcome to Heartstrings.Thanks for stopping by. I am a mother, a grandmother, and an author of historical western romance and contemporary romantic fiction. Ethan's Heart, book one of The Blackwood Brothers' series won the 2017 Maggie Award for Excellence. Book two, Escorting Darby Bloom, features Blackwood brother Isaac and will be released in December 2017. Stay tuned for more books in this series. If contemporaries are more your thing, check out Carly's Rule and Dusty's Fate. They are both Amazon Best-Sellers.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Can you believe it's already September? Fall is just around the corner. It is also the time of the Harvest Moon. What a beautiful sight. Harvest Moon 

Something else happened this month. My long awaited debut novel, Carly's Rule, became available at Amazon in Kindle and in paperback, as well as at Barnes & Noble in paperback. Soon it will be available for Nook, at ibook, Sony, and Kobo. It will also be available to order anywhere books are sold.

I feel like I've been waiting all my life for this one event, and it is absolutely all that I expected. I've received encouragement through the years, but the support I have been given since the book released has been unbelievable. Thank you all.

Carly's Rule by Vickie King

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interview with author Karen Hudgins

Includes an excerpt from her 2013 release 
When Hearts Speak

Vickie: What inspired you to write your first book?

Karen: Inspiration rose out of discovering that I really liked fiction writing, and this particular kind of creativity to the max. I so enjoyed slipping into the zone, creating something from nothing, and coming out on the other side with story pages that made me feel good and pleased others. I had started out small (with many rewrites), one page about a woman in an estate garden waiting for someone. It took all day with a yellow pad and me still in my pajamas when my husband came home from work. By then, I was completely hooked on fiction writing and wanted to do so much more, which led to novel writing and learning as much as I could about the craft and the business. As a result, my first completed manuscript, Next Year's Promise, mostly set in Australia, was published in 2001. My sixth novel, When Hearts Speak, was published July 2013.

Vickie: What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Karen:  Reader appreciation. The personal satisfaction of creating stories always calls me back to write another one.

Karen won 3rd place in 2012 The Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Award for her book, Best Man. 

Vickie: What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you, and how do you get through it?

Karen: I've found different challenges along the way. In the beginning, I had enrolled in Novel Writing at Rice University Continuing Education program. Reading my work before a group was difficult for me. Also, learning the element of dialogue. I just persisted with both of them and eventually prevailed.

Now, I think my biggest challenge is coming up with romantic conflicts that are credible enough for readers to buy into for the length of a 90K word book with related subplots. Another difficulty, which felt painful, was having to shut down the total immersion process to go to my day job when all my writing doors were open, my imagination was ripe, and content was flowing full blast. Knowing I could write again in the evening helped me cope. Book promotion, which comes with the territory, is still a bit of a challenge. I'm trying different methods.

Vickie: What advice or tips would you like to give, one writer to another?

Karen: For new writers I suggest: Accept and learn how to use constructive criticism. Practice will help you with this. Write as much as you can, every day, if possible. Make an honest effort to learn from others and seek out learning resources. Pick a genre and read, read, read. Spend time with other writers. Set up your own writing space that you come back to every time you write. Keep your chin up. Know what you're doing is NOT easy. Persevere. Finish writing a book, then celebrate big time. Learn the craft first, then the business aspects. Both are changing and immense. Expect to devote serious time to this, years, in fact. Finally, love writing for all that it is, and what it is not--or leave it . . . but keep reading.

Thanks, Vickie, for inviting me to share some of my writing life with you and others. Making writer friends is the best side effect of doing what we do. So good to know you, and best of luck to you with your new first book!

Vickie: Karen, thank you so much for allowing me to pick your brain on writing and for sharing this with others.

Karen Hudgins began writing in the early nineties, and the first novel she wrote was published in 2001. She writes romantic, character-driven stories laced with mystery or suspense, history, humor, often a touch of magic, and always finishes with a happy ending. Researching places, history, and lines of work through talking with people is always fascinating to her.

Northeast Florida is now Karen's home region where she and her husband explore the abundant natural, cultural, and historical features that feed her writer's spirit and imagination. She's a mom and grandmother. Her degree in Behavioral Science helps her create story people and their conflicts. She's a dog owner, beach-goer, reader, and movie-watcher. She likes rock, country music, and the Symphony.

Karen is a member of Romance Writers of America and National Association of Professional Women. She has worked on staff for private universities; the most recent, Washington University in St. Louis. She also enjoys digital photography. People with vision forever impress her, as do moms and dads who read to their young children.

Karen's time with writers, aspiring authors, readers, and other industry folk never proves dull. She's thankful for her writing life and especially for people who enjoy her stories. She wishes her inkwell never goes dry.

Visit Karen's website at  http://www.karenhudgins.com/
Website update in progress. Please come visit again soon for current info and Pics.

When Hearts Speak

Sarah Grace Mayhew, a southern widow, avoids new love. When enigmatic Wyatt Harper lifts her from a fountain, he gets under her wet skin. Yet, how can she love the man whose phantom enemy also targets her? And why should Wyattt cherish a woman tied to his family's worst nightmare? Only their hearts can say.  


          Shortly after sunset Sarah Grace marveled that the tent was up, and Wyatt had hung lanterns in the low pine branches. She was eating a plate of barbecue beef brisket, corn bread, and quartered potatoes that Wyatt had carried in with him. She drank country fruit wine from a faded blue porcelain metal cup.  
          A long time had passed since Sarah Grace sat on a blanket spread on a log in her jeans, girly plaid shirt, Nikes®, and a light jacket. This almost seemed surreal.
          “What a difference eighteen miles makes,” Sarah Grace said quietly, taking it all in.  
          “I thought you’d like it here,” he said. “These are the backwoods to my home away from home. It’s a little cabin along Sandy Creek.”
          “Nice natural landscaping,” Sarah Grace remarked and licked stickiness from her fingers.
          “It’s about as natural as it gets.”
          “I like natural.”
          “I remember.” He moved closer to her and touched her leg with his. 
          “Is there a special reason why we’re here?” Sarah Grace asked thoughtfully. “Seriously.”
          Wyatt blew the flame off two more marshmallows and gave her one.
          “Seriously, yes. I wanted for us to have some time away,” he said. “Away from work problems, public parties, and family pressures. Let’s just be us and watch the sunrise together up here on the only decent hill in this whole county.” 
          Sarah Grace smiled around her marshmallow. He made them perfectly--charred. Also, he was right. Being away with each other was the best filter she’d seen in a long time. “I wouldn’t have thought of this,” she said. She stretched out her legs and crossed her ankles. She and Wyatt weren’t that far out of town. Yet, she was already feeling a difference. 
          “You make a good fire,” she added. “Were you a Boy Scout?”
          “Nope, Grandpa Joel taught me. He was Grandma Bunny’s husband,” he said, propping the long fork against a rock. “The secret’s in the stacking and dry wood. I keep some under a tarp by the big oak tree.” He hiked his thumb over his shoulder. “There’s a cave up here too. Fearless Alan checked it out once and got a bat scratch.”
          Sarah Grace cringed and rolled her eyes. “Boys.”
          “What? You don’t like boys?” Wyatt teased.
          Looking up at the moon, she flung back, “I do, but it’s a little vampire in the making that gets me going.”
          Wyatt laughed and touched her hair. “I’ve been missing you.”
          Sarah Grace squeezed his hand. Keeping things very loose for a while helped her. Now being close to him like this reminded her why it was worth the effort. Wyatt made her feel chosen and cherished. He moved his fingers to her cheek and stopped at the corners of her mouth.
          “C’mon, let’s go see the owls.” He got up and took her hand, grabbed a lantern from a branch, and led her onto a narrow path of chipped wood. He urged her to be quiet, and soon enough they stopped at a small stone bridge over the creek. She held the lantern while he drew a flashlight from his jacket pocket and shone the beam upward into the tallest pine tree. Large, beautiful golden eyes radiated down at them. “There’s a family up there. Chicks every spring,” he said.
          “Their camouflaging is amazing,” she said.
          He embraced her with his free arm, and she again was transported into his world. The more he revealed of himself the more she liked him. He was respectful of her and nature. He took things a little at a time, not at a reckless pace. He fed her spirit with gentleness. He fueled her desires with roguishness. With his eyes he read her needs, with his spirit he met them. She was feeling blessed tonight to be in his company.
          On the way back to the campsite, he flashed the light into the trees. Bright, silvery eyes popped into view.  “Deer,” she said in awe, counting three. “This is awesome.”
          Wyatt swiveled the light beam onto the path. “I should come more often. Last time the whole family was here for my dad’s birthday campout a couple of years ago. A little black bear visited us at the cabin. Mother dropped the strawberry basket on the porch. So the bear stuck around for a while.” He pushed aside a long branch for her to pass by. “Say, are you ready for a warm-up? The coffee pot has about two cups in it yet.”
         As the night grew darker Wyatt pulled her in for warmth and comfort beside him. They shared more stories, including a ghost story for good measure. Ruby had its share of them. The coffee was finished. The breeze around them whooshed through the pine tops, and the lanterns were not as bright. But who needed them for kissing?
          Wyatt turned and held her chin with his fingers and fired a sound kiss on her lips. Her need for love soared higher and deeper by the second. Cupping the back of her head with his hand, he let his passion take over.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Here is my cover for my September release, Carly's Rule, a contemporary romance.

When the book is released, I'll post a link.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

CARLY'S RULE, Release date SEPTEMBER 2013

I'm getting excited. Carly's Rule, Book One of The Braddocks, published by Bell Bridge Books, will be out in September. Only two months away. Here's a little about the book.

Pastry Chef Carly Braddock only ever loved one man, Luke Donovan, who disappeared from her life years ago, breaking her heart and leaving her to wonder what happened to him.  When he walks into Sugar Plums, her bakery/cafe, and back into her life after all this time, she isn’t in a forgiving mood. Though he doesn’t know it, her experience with him shaped the other relationships in her life and led her to create a rule to protect her heart. What neither counts on is that the chemistry between them is still as fierce and tangible as it was all those years ago, and Carly doesn’t know until her heart is completely involved once again that Luke has kept an important part of his life from her.  When she finds out what it is, she knows she must let him go, and this time for good. Not only did he keep something from her, but he broke the one thing she created to protect her heart . . . Carly’s Rule.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Heart of Excellence
Readers’ Choice Award is open to submit entries!
Sponsored by Ancient City Romance Authors (ACRA)
Open to RWA members with books having an original copyright date of 2012 or First US Printing date of 2012 from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012.
New to The Heart Of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards for 2013:
Check out the rules: Heart of Excellence Rules

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chapter One of  
Knight & Day by Kathryn J. Bain

Winner of the free download of Knight & Day is

 Chapter One 

Why does this always happen to me? It's hard enough to keep God's commandments, at least the easy ones, without running into someone who died. It's like I attract them. Maybe I should find a support group. "Hi, my name is Trubleh Lawrence, and I find dead bodies."

I'd run screaming if I wasn't used to it.

Gerald Simpson had been looking to hire someone for his private investigation office. The ad read:

Receptionist for small firm. No experience necessary.

About to turn thirty, newly divorced, with no money or marketable skills, it fit my qualifications perfectly. I'd arrived at fifteen 'til for my nine o'clock appointment. My daddy said if you come early, it'd show them you're eager. If I'd waited, in this case, another applicant might have found Mr. Simpson.

When I arrived, the door stood ajar. The lock clicked behind me when I shut the door. Not a common occurrence for most businesses. Maybe private investigators need to take special precautions from husbands they've caught cheating.

Besides, Mr. Simpson could just be asleep and have his head on his desk. For all I knew, he might have had a long night out surveilling or whatever investigators do.

I'd been dealing with a cold the last week which threw my sense of smell off or the odor would have warned me when I entered the office.

I walked around to nudge him awake and saw the bloody hole in the back of his skull. My ick factor rose. Gray powder burns told me the shot had been up close. He looked like he'd been a large man when he was alive. Of course, the bloating from decomposition might have caused some of that.

A sheriff's daughter with an adeptness born of years of tagging with my father on cases, I scanned the room. Not much to look at. A long row of filing cabinets aligned the opposite wall. Mr. Simpson's desk appeared to be twice the size as the one up front. I assumed the smaller one would've been mine if he'd given me the job.

I sighed, resigned to the fact I'd be forever unemployed.

Mr. Simpson's purplish face and pale lips said I had more important things to think about. He'd probably died within the past hour. Why couldn't I be late? Tattooing from the gunpowder particles surrounded the wound, but no soot. The gun, a Smith & Wesson five round .38 Special laid at least ten feet from the body. The pink grip announced loud and clear that a woman more than likely killed him. Lucky me. I happened to be female.

I pulled out my cell.

"911 operator. Is this an emergency?"

"Yes. Somebody's been shot in the River City Plaza on Prudential Drive. Suite 613."

Once I hung up, a noise in the corridor drew my attention. The doorknob jerked back and forth, then the scraping of something in the lock.

My heart somersaulted while my mind raced with possibilities. A robber? Not likely. The killer? A better bet.

A small closet in the corner seemed a good place to hide. My heart and I raced toward it. A beige raincoat suspended by a wire hook appeared to float in air. I guess that's standard wear in the P.I. business. The small space carried a musty smell. I scooted further back into the closet and pulled the door shut behind me. The only light came in from a slit at the floor.

Please God, don't let my stomach growl. I wished I'd eaten breakfast.

I tried not to breathe too loud. File drawers opened and closed. Papers shuffled. Then footsteps neared my hiding spot. I grabbed my large green purse with both hands and held my breath. He might kill me, but I'd leave a few marks before I went.

A rush of adrenaline ran through me and pushed my lungs against my rib cage. The door handle twisted, and I flung against it. I had hoped to knock the other person down. It didn't happen. Could have to do with him being larger than me. A lot larger. He stared at me. I stared at him. Finally, I yelled and whacked him in the head with my purse. He went down.

Muscles were no match for a large bag with a flat iron tucked inside.

I leapt over him and ran out the front, knocking on every door on my way through the hallway to draw attention. Around the corner, the elevator dinged, and two police officers rushed off.

"He's in there." I panted. "Another man came in and started searching the place."

I trailed behind the policemen who had their guns out. I'd have mine out, too, if I'd brought it. I also wouldn't want a lot of questions since I still needed a job. Another interview waited for me after lunch. When we returned, Mr. Simpson remained where I left him.

However, the stranger I'd hit on the head had disappeared.
Two hours later I sat in a small diner in downtown Jacksonville, eating a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. I had a half hour until my next appointment. I'd been unemployed for three months now, and my savings disappeared faster than the chips on my plate. I glanced at my ringing cell. Caller ID announced my best friend, Kay, who called after every interview.

"No, I didn't get the job," I said before she had a chance to speak. I explained to tell her about the dead body. "I do owe you a debt of gratitude though. The purse you gave me for my birthday last year helped me get away."

"I told you that you need a different bag for every occasion. And a large one obviously makes a good weapon." Kay, a purse aficionado, had an unusual style for just about every situation. Who knew where she came up with them all? They also looked expensive. Good thing she married rich, instead of for love like I did.

I drank down some of my root beer. "In a few minutes I'm heading to a lawyer's office across the street. Pray I get this position. Poor Gretchen's getting tired of store brand dog food."

The phone beeped in my ear.

"I've got to go. My mom's calling."

"Good luck. And phone me when you get done," she said before hanging up.

"Hey, Mom."

"What's wrong? Your grandmother said she felt a disturbance."

Grandma, a million-year-old full-blooded Choctaw Indian, claimed to have special powers of vision and feelings. Most of them pertained to me. I just wished she'd stop telling my mom about her prophecies. If she'd tell Grandpa instead, I'd never have a problem. He knew how to keep a secret.

I went on to explain finding Mr. Simpson's body.

"Why, oh why am I cursed?" Mom spoke in that dramatic fashion she learned from doing school plays. "Why do I get the daughter who finds dead people?"

"I hate to cut this short," I said. "But I have another interview. I'll call you later. Love you." My thumb slid across the off button before she could say anything further.

I took the elevator in the Glade Towers to the fourteenth floor of Knight & Day, P.A. The writing on the outside window said they practiced criminal, worker's compensation, elder law, and personal injury law.

A large wood door remained between me and my future career. I entered and "oohed" and "aahed." I'd never seen anything this beautiful in Pâle Bayuk, Louisiana where I'd grown up. The reception room had cherry wood flooring throughout. A leather sofa and two matching seats surrounded a glass coffee table. Too bad a professionally dressed woman took every available spot. Each held a resume in her hand, at least two pages long. They all had way more experience than I did.

I fought the temptation to run. Maybe I could find a space in the corner to hide until they called my name.

Two large desks, matching the flooring, were on opposite sides of the back wall. Each had a telephone and computer. The one on the left had no papers or paraphernalia to show anyone used it.

At the other, an African-American woman appeared to be pulling her brown hair out. It probably had a lot to do with the ringing phone. It just wouldn't stop. An engraved nameplate read Sandra Kastanza. She no sooner answered one line, and then another would ring.

She grimaced at me. I'm sure she thought to herself, "Great, just one more thing I have to take care of." The phone went on with its unrelenting noise, and Sandra continued to push her hand through her hair. I strolled over and waited with a pasted smile on my face.

The phone rang. "Please hold." It rang again. "Can you hold?" Sandra looked up at me with pleading eyes. "I'll be with you in just a moment." Her fingers pressed buttons faster than she spoke.

Sandra's dark skin contrasted nicely against a watermelon colored suit. However, her brown eyes narrowed, and a crease ran across her forehead. If she kept that up, she'd have wrinkles before her next birthday. Sandra answered one of the lines. When she hung up from that one, she answered another. Then another. This time the person she spoke with apparently wouldn't let her off. Her other two lines rang again.

I shook my head and recalled the words my daddy told me. "Show initiative. Don't be too proud to take out the garbage. It shows them you're indispensable."

So that's what I did. Showed initiative. Really, I pitied Sandra. Any minute now she'd end up in a rubber room from the ringing. If she didn't, I sure would, so I marched over to the other desk, punched blinking line one and said, "Knight & Day, would you please hold?" Then I grabbed the other line. "Knight & Day, how may I help you?" I spoke in the most professional voice I could muster with my nerves all-a-twitter.

"Is William available?"

"I'm afraid not, but if you give me your number, I'll be sure to give him a message." I took down the man's information then did the same for the other person I'd placed on hold.

I glanced over at Sandra and gave her a grin.

She mouthed, "Thank you."

I may not have the ability of the others, but I had Sandra on my side.

She finally got her caller off the line. "It's been like this all day. I told them not to put that ad in the paper."

The phone rang again. She let out a weighted breath then answered. After listening to the caller, she announced, "I'm afraid the position has been filled." She winked at me and disconnected. "I see you know your way around an office."

"To be honest, I don't." I lowered my voice so the others seated within twenty feet couldn't hear. "You just needed someone to lend a hand so I thought I'd give you one of mine." I handed her my one page resume. "As you can see, it's not much."

A lady in a nice black skirted-suit glided out from the back. From the huge smile on her face, her interview must have gone well. I looked down at my flared brown skirt, pink sweater, and brown blazer one shade lighter than the skirt. I didn't come close to fitting in with this crowd.

"Wait right here." Sandra got up and rushed to the back. Her heels had to be at least three inches high and matched the skirt that went to mid-thigh.

She returned moments later beaming from ear to ear.

"Mr. Day will see you now."

I glanced over at the five women seated in the lobby. They each shot me a dirty look. One that said if they'd known answering a stupid phone would have gotten them in, they'd have done it.

Sandra led me to a large office with a window view of the St. Johns River. Inside was what you would expect from a law office. Law books, large desks and an older man sitting in a high-back chair. The place smelled of leather and money.

Only one document sat on the desk in front of a balding man of about sixty. My resume. Very few files littered a side credenza. No loose papers anywhere in the office. The place was meticulous. Degrees, plagues, and awards dangled on the back wall.

He rose and extended his hand, which I accepted.

"I'm Mr. Day. Have a seat." He used an opened palm to point to a chair across from him. I ventured to guess he stood less than six feet tall. He wore a gray suit and an orange and blue tie. Obviously a University of Florida fan. I figured yelling out for my Louisiana Tigers might not be a good idea right now. His crisp sapphire eye color would draw anyone's attention. Probably a good thing when you work in front of a jury.

"Hmm. Trouble, is that a nickname?"

"Actually, it's pronounced 'true blay'. It's French." I hoped he didn't speak French, or I'd have to explain how after being four weeks late, twenty-two hours in labor, and only willing to come by cesarean section, my mom named me Trouble with a French twist.

"Unique." He nodded. "You don't have much experience." He turned the resume page over.

Did he truly think I'd write on the back? I may not be very professionally dressed, but I'm not dumb.

"Tell me about yourself," he said.

"I moved here recently from Louisiana. I came from a small town, and there wasn't much in the way of jobs to be had."

"What brought you to Jacksonville?"

"My mother came here quite a few years ago. I decided to visit and liked it enough to stay." No point in telling him I'd actually run away from home after my divorce.

"Hmm." He must have said it twenty times as he looked over my resume. "Sandra seems to like you the best out of all our interviewees. She's been with us about nine years, and you'll be working alongside her." He let out a slight laugh. "And she's made it clear if we hired one of those stuck-up women in the waiting area, she'll walk out."

I tried not to get too enthusiastic in case I'd misinterpreted what he said.

"The job pays ten dollars an hour to start. You'll be on a ninety day trial period. After that, you'll get a raise and benefits will take effect." He rose. "If you want it, the job's yours. You can start tomorrow."

"I want it." I fought the urge to jump up and hug him.

"Just keep it quiet. I'd hate to have a stampede from those waiting to see me." He winked.

On my way out, I stopped beside Sandra's desk. She cradled the handset between her ear and shoulder. I mouthed the words "Thank you," before I left.

"Yes!" I leapt into the air.

The elevator doors slid opened not even a second after I landed. The man who'd been searching Mr. Simpson's file cabinets stepped out.

Before I could say anything, he hauled me inside the elevator with him.


A no man policy doesn’t count when someone’s trying to kill you. A name can mean a lot. You expect Jasper to be a CEO of a company. Name your kid Phineas, well, he’ll get beat up a lot. Name your daughter Trubleh (true blay), and you’ll get nothing but trouble. Trubleh Lawrence makes a habit out of discovering dead bodies. When the police look to her as a suspect, she has no choice but to search for the killer. If being a suspect isn’t bad enough, she has to deal with a grandmother who has visions, a grandfather who wants to buy a speedboat, a co-worker who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Shirley Temple, and a guy who constantly reminds her that celibacy is hard when a hot male is around.


     Kathryn J. Bain began writing more than ten years ago. Her first release, Breathless, came out January 13, 2012. Her novella, Game of Hearts, was released in March 2012 followed by her inspirational romance suspense Catch Your Breath.
     She is the former President of Florida Sisters in Crime and Membership Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. She is currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors.
     To survive and pay bills, she has been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law.
     She has two daughters and a dog named Gretchen. Her first grandchild is due in 2013.
     Kathryn grew up in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. In 1981, she moved to Boise, but apparently it wasn't far enough south, because two years later, she headed to Jacksonville, Florida and has lived in the sunshine ever since.
Visit Kathryn at her website: KathrynJBain.com
Or through Facebook: Kathryn J. Bain  

Knight & Day is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.