Friday, April 26, 2013

Chasing the Tumbleweed by Casey Dawes: Interview, Review and Excerpt



As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I went through a number of dreams as a kid. Being a writer was definitely one of them. In fact, I won my first writing contest at the age of ten. But I also wanted to be on the stage or movie screen or to sing for my living. At one point I wanted to be a nurse and save lives, maybe I’d even sing while I was doing it!

Wanting to be so many things never quit. With my Master’s Degree in Theater from the University of Michigan, I’ve been a secretary, stagehand, teacher, DBA (database administrator), speaker, life coach, business coach and finally full circle back to writing. Sometimes I even sing when I write.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
Of course! Pandora is my friend. If I’m having a tough time writing, it’s the Secret Garden station. Love scenes require the Barbra Streisand or Broadway station. Lady Antebellum accompanies adventure and Toby Keith gets cranked up loud when Friday afternoon approaches. If I’m feeling a need to take down the establishment, I sing along with Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Beatles or Monkees? Why?
Really? That’s a question?  I was a diehard Beatlemaniac. I even saw them in concert in Boston. I still have the ticket stub. 

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?
I would apologize to my first husband. I came from a family that had issues. Issues are good for writing books, but not so good when you’re trying to create a marriage as a twenty-two year old. While I’ve learned over the years that I wasn’t to blame for everything that went wrong, I know the marriage took a direct hit from my actions.

I’d really like a do-over on that one, but since that’s not possible, I’d like to be able to provide a heartfelt apology for my share of the problems.

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

Chasing the Tumbleweed entertains with a twist. At the end you’ll feel good without feeling empty.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
My plots and characters evolve from each other. In the case of Chasing the Tumbleweed, the plot was inspired by a red plastic ice chest at a deserted rest stop in Nevada. My husband, who is incredibly supportive of my life as a writer, played the “what if” game with me for the next few hundred miles of lonely Nevada highways. What if there was a head? A hand? A book with a bloody fingerprint? 

In the case of the California Romance Series, the characters come first. As I’m wrapping up one book, someone emerges from that book asking me to tell her story. California Sunset is Annie’s story and I have to admit…Annie’s a lot like me and she’s had some of the same experiences. Her best friend, Elizabeth, was a natural for book two, California Wine. 

Tell us about your next release.

My next release will be book three in the California Romance Series: California Homecoming. This is Elizabeth’s daughter’s story.

Blurb for California Homecoming, available June 24, 2013

When Sarah Ladina purchased an old Victorian in Costanoa with plans to turn it into a high-end destination inn, she had no idea life could get so complicated. Well, maybe she did. As an unwed pregnant woman who couldn’t cook, she had her work cut out for her. A good looking and helpful veteran, a doctor who orders modified bed rest, and an ex who’s trying to get back into her life make her wonder if she’ll ever be able to open her inn in time for her mother’s best friend’s wedding.

Hunter Evans returned from duty in the Middle East wounded in both body and spirit. Finding a job has been tough with a prosthetic leg and a blank resume and Sarah has snatched his childhood home away from him hours before he put in an offer. The pretty innkeeper attracts his attention until he finds out she’s pregnant and the father is still on the scene. Still, he can’t stay away.

With the odds against them will Hunter and Sarah find their way to their heart’s desire and the love they deserve?

If you want to be notified when California Homecoming is available, please sign-up for my quarterly email newsletter by clicking here.


Fleeing Salt Lake City as a twenty ­four­ year old failure, Laurie takes the long way home through the middle of Nevada’s lonely high desert plains. Her rest stop should have been routine, but now she’s fighting for her life against a well-armed escaped murderer who’s dragging her further into the empty wilderness. Growing up in LA didn’t prepare her for this…or did it?

The hot August wind blew the tumbleweed across the two-lane highway. Laurie Bevin eased off the gas to avoid the rootless bush, though even that small movement increased the pressure in her bladder. There had to be a rest stop. The barren Nevada countryside didn’t have a decent bush to hide behind to do her business.
What had possessed her to take this road? The interstate would have gotten her from Salt Lake to LA faster than this podunk highway through the heart of basin and range country.
But that was the problem. She didn’t want to go faster. Moving faster meant pulling up at her parents’ door, a failure at the ripe old age of twenty-four.
There!  Black pipes rose from two squat non-descript buildings that blended in with the rest of the brown landscape.  Only the gray thunderclouds to the east provided relief from the unrelenting drabness.
She drove her ancient Celica onto the dirt parking lot and pulled to a stop. As she got out of the car she noticed a bright red plastic ice chest positioned exactly between the two buildings.
Holding her nose, she ran into the brick outhouse, using every ounce of willpower to keep from peeing in her pants. She sighed with relief when she finished and stood to zip up her jeans.
Something rustled behind the building.
Probably some form of rodent. Time to get out of here.
She glanced around the small space. Not even a hand sanitizer.
Turning the doorknob with distaste, she tried not to think of who or what lingered on its cool metal surface. She scurried back to her car, giving the ice chest another glance. 
She’d be better off not knowing what was in it.
The disinfectant wipes left her hands with a medicinal smell, but it was a vast improvement over lingering germs. Laurie gave another glance at the ice chest.
No good could come from opening it, but if she didn’t, her unfulfilled curiosity would haunt her for the rest of the trip. She pulled out another wipe to protect her fingers, walked slowly back to the chest and circled it as if it was a snake. Finally, she lunged toward it and yanked it open.
Books. Dozens of Louis L’Amour books.
She had one more motel night before she made it home. May as well take one.
Cautiously moving the top few aside to consider her options, her wipe-wrapped fingers touched metal. She whipped her hand back, dropped the lid and stood, the white square fluttering to the ground, stark against the gritty concrete.
What the hell?
She should get back in her car and head south.
She picked up the wipe, lifted the lid again and moved the rest of the books aside. A Bowie knife. From the looks of it, an antique full of rust spots. Gingerly, she removed it from the ice chest to look closer.
Those weren’t rust spots.
Gravel crunched on the side of the building.
 “A little lady like you shouldn’t be holding such a big knife.” The voice was bland.
Pasty hands unwrapped her fingers from the knife and took it from her.
Laurie took a step backward.
A middle-aged man stood in front of her, the cowboy hat on his head matching the rest of the outfit: faded Western-style snap shirt, dirty jeans and scruffy cowboy boots, but the outfit didn’t suit his pale skin and middle-aged flab. His smile chilled her spine in spite of the hundred degree temperature.
“My name is Eli--Eli Crenshaw,” he said, holding out the hand without the knife.
She took another step back. “Uh...that’s nice.”
Eli moved back to the building and she let out a breath.
“Uh...bye.” She turned and walked toward her car. When she tried to unlock the door, her hands fumbled with the keys. She looked over her shoulder.
Eli walked toward her, the smile gone from his face.
Unlock...quick.  Her breath came fast. She glanced down the road.
Empty, like the rest of Nevada.
“Where are you rushing off to?” He was beside her.
How did he move so fast and quietly?
She kept her shaking hands working the lock. Click. Open. She pulled up the door handle.
The sharp point of the knife dug into her ribs. “Car died a few miles back. I need a lift.”
Could she get into the car and away before he stabbed her?  Or maybe only stabbed a little?
The point pressed into the soft flesh of her waist. “Uh...sure. Where do you need to go?”
“South.” The knife moved away. “Get in the car, but don’t start it.”
Right. She opened the door and heard the click of a rifle safety.
Had he turned it on or off?
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
She sat in the driver’s seat and looked in the rear-view mirror, hoping to see a car— preferably a police car—coming rapidly down the road. Nothing but swirling dust devils. In the reflection, her gray eyes stood out in her wan face, limp blonde hair plastered to her head.
Her life would end before she had a chance to live it. Typical. She’d be buried in a shallow grave in nowhere Nevada, dug up by coyotes…
The rear door squealed open. Eli tossed a faded blue backpack in the back seat and closed the door. His movements were measured, deliberate. The car settled as he lowered himself onto the passenger seat and placed the rifle next to his right leg, the Bowie knife on his lap.
“Okay,   drive south,” he said almost pleasantly. “Don’t do anything stupid or I’ll gut you like a pig.”
She swallowed, nodded and started the car, the image of the hilt of the Bowie knife sticking from her stomach firmly implanted in her mind. The macadam hummed under the wheels of the car as she increased her speed on the highway, her thoughts churning as fast as the engine.
How the hell had she wound up in this predicament? Was there any chance she would get out of it alive?
Not with her luck.
She flicked her eyes at the man sitting next to her. He was staring at the road, humming a tuneless series of notes. What were his intentions?
Not good.
Brent had been right to break up with her. She was just a dumb blonde with a useless degree in American History.
“Is that your knife?” she blurted out.
“Is now.”
“Why is it bloody?  I mean…did you kill an animal or something?”
“More like the ‘or something.’”  He tapped it on his leg.
“It looks old. Must be pretty valuable.” Maybe she could distract him with her superior arcane knowledge.
Then what?
The sun glinted on the clean parts of the blade when he held it up. “One of my wife’s favorite possessions.  She swore it was made by old Jim Bowie himself.”
Laurie looked over at her passenger. The expression on his face chilled her.
Eli must have felt her glance. “Oh, no need to worry about my wife anymore. She’s dead to me now.” He placed his hand on Laurie’s thigh. “But a man has certain needs, you know. And with you being such a pretty young thing, I’m sure you’ll do nicely.”
Laurie was going to throw up.
A few hours later Eli said, “Turn here.”
Laurie took the turn. How long before they reached their destination? She was exhausted from the unrelenting sun and hot wind, Eli’s disgusting hand on her leg, and the tension of not knowing when or how she would die.
The condition of the roads they’d traveled had deteriorated and now they were down to dirt.
“I’m not sure this car will make it,” she said as they followed the road up to a ridge.
 “Longer to walk if it doesn’t.” He tapped the knife on his leg.
He’d probably rape her before he killed her.
Unless a miracle occurred.

My Review of Chasing the Tumbleweed

I enjoyed this short story.  The suspense is particularly well-depicted; I immediately sensed the lurking danger and knew evil was afoot. The description of the desolate, remote high desert of Nevada is spot-on.  The villain is repugnant and easy to hate while the hero, Jeff, an honorable and savvy forest ranger, is particularly swoon-worthy.  Both protagonists have their baggage, but the chemistry between them flares quickly. It was easy for me to fall under the spell of this story because I could feel the aching loneliness in every word.  The confrontations are chilling, but there exists under the slightly broken facades of our heroes a resolute determination to beat the odds and vanquish the evil conspiring to snuff all hope and joy from them.  The dangerous criminal with nothing to lose is the obvious threat, but Laurie and Jeff also receive an unexpected opportunity to mend a few internal scars of their own, if they can also vanquish the invasive, almost paralyzing miasma of self-doubt and bruised spirit.  This quick read is sure to stir emotion.  Finally, it is a shining testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Reviewed by Laurie-J

Sparks fly when Elizabeth and Marcos meet in Costanoa. They’re determined to maintain their single-track focus on their businesses. But can they keep romance out of their lives forever?


Chasing the Tumbleweed:  Amazon

California Wine: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

California Sunset: | Barnes and Noble | iTunes


My life is one of change and more change. I’ve lived in New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Montana, New York City, Pennsylvania, California, and Montana (in that order).  I started my working life as a temporary instructor at Eastern Montana College, taught junior high English, tried my hand at acting in New York (I DO hate rejection!), and fell into the technical industry where I stayed for over 30 years, followed by a decade as a life and business coach.

I have two adult boys and four adult step-children and multiple children of my heart. I live on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Montana where I look out my window on herons, eagles, fox, geese, ducks and more!

Join me on social media! I’m particularly active on Facebook and Twitter. I also have a presence on Goodreads and Pinterest (great pictures of Montana)!

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