Game Day with Karen!

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to play a costume game.

Let’s start off with a little candy – eye candy, that is – I thought I’d share this side-by-side photo of Scott Eastwood dressed up as his dad Clint for Halloween back in 2016. This is the first Treat in our Trick or Treat game.

Now for the Trick . . .

Use the graphic below to pick your virtual Halloween costume. Post your costume result in the comments for a chance to win an e-book copy of Full Steam Ahead.

Of all my books, Full Steam Ahead is probably the most suited for Halloween. A mad-scientist, steam-engine-exploding hero and a piratical, mathematical, dagger-wielding heroine. Of course, true to my style, there is nothing remotely spooky about the story, but there is plenty of danger, adventure, and romance.

I will give away 3 e-book copies of Darius and Nicole’s story today, drawn from those who leave a comment.

And since not even my characters can get away without showing up in costume for this game day event, here they are dressed and ready for a good old-fashioned masquerade.

Be sure to enter your costume result in the comments for a chance to win!

Graduating to Adulthood

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May is always a crazy month in the Witemeyer house. Three of the five of us have birthdays, and on top of that, this year, my daughter (my oldest) is graduating from high school. On my 45th birthday. So in addition to the usual day job and writing and church schedules to keep up with, I’ve also been tackling graduation invitations and juggling numerous award ceremonies, scholarship recipient dinners, band concerts, baccalaureate events, etc. Whew! I’m exhausted already and I’m not even halfway through the month yet.

Tomorrow is Bethany’s 18th birthday. 18. Wow. Where did those years go?

Bethany 9 months old
Bethany 9 months old
First day of pre-school
First day of preschool
Princess Leia for Halloween
Princess Leia for Halloween











Now she’s all grown up . . .

In the bluebonnets
In the bluebonnets
With her flute
With her flute
Her favorite pasttime
Her favorite past time











Bethany in Library 4 smallNext year she’ll be at Abilene Christian University studying Mathematics with possible minors in Computer Science and/or Physics. (Yes, she’s that smart. Graduating valedictorian at her 4A high school. No, I’m not proud or anything.)

FullSteamAhead Cover FinalSo in honor of my daughter’s big day, I’m giving away 2 copies of the book I dedicated to her – Full Steam Ahead. The heroine, Nicole Renard, is a math whiz in the book (just like my daughter) and the hero, Darius Thornton, is a self-taught engineer. A fitting story for a girl who loves numbers.

To enter, leave a comment about a favorite high school graduation memory.

And thank you for putting up with a very non-western post from a proud mama who’s got a tired brain. Ha! Although, Bethany is a Texan and I threw in some Texas bluebonnets, so maybe that helps it qualify. 🙂


Cover Quirks

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It’s always exciting to get your first look at a new cover. Even if it gives you an odd feeling of deja vu. That’s what happened to me when myFullSteamAhead Cover Final editor first sent me the cover art for my next project, Love on the Mend.

This a novella that follows up with a character from Full Steam Ahead. In that story, the hero and heroine take in a runaway boy named Jacob. The full story of what led the boy to run away in the first place, however, is never completely revealed . . . until the novella. In Love on the Mend, Jacob is a full-grown man, a doctor weary from his time as a surgeon in the Civil War and all the death witnessed firsthand. He longs for peace, but knows he will never have it unless he lays his past to rest. So after 17 years, he finally returns home, only to discover that his past is still alive and kicking.

Now, since this new story will only be available in digital format, and as a novella it will be offered at a fraction of the full-length novel price, my publisher decided that it would be more cost effective to use material they already had in-house for the cover instead of doing an entirely new cover shoot. Being a frugal person, myself, I thought this a wise plan. Besides, it left me with a fun quirk for my cover.

Playing off the doctor angle and using what they had on hand, the art department came up with this adorable cover–one that is remarkably similar to a book by the wonderfully fun Cathy Marie Hake.

My new cover. (You can click on it to pre-order the e-novella.)
That Certain Spark
The original cover from 2009. (You can click this one, too. Grin.)

















They changed the scenery in the background, photo-shopped the color of the dress to change the stripes into a teal color and used a different pose and props than the one selected for Cathy’s cover, yet the two remain very similar.

Now Cathy’s book came out five years ago in 2009, so I wasn’t sure if anyone would even notice. But the first time I posted the cover on Facebook, one savvy librarian from the Netherlands was quick to pick up on it. She asked straight out if it was the same model and dress. Yep. Didn’t bother me in the least, though. It’s not like going to prom and finding two other girls wearing the exact same gown as you. No, to me it was a conversation starter. Besides, I’m a huge fan of Cathy Marie Hake and was honored to share a cover model with her.

The only complaint I have at all is that the style of dress is not right for my time period. Love on the Mend takes place in 1868. The skirt should be much fuller and belled out. But other than that, I’m very pleased. It’s fun, cute, a bit flirtatious, and it fits my feisty heroine, Molly Tate, just fine.

  • So what do you think of the cover?
  • Ever showed up to a gathering wearing the same dress or blouse as someone else?

Unusual Frontier Fashion

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I’ve never been much of a fashionista myself. Comfort trumps style in my life except for a few special occasions. But there is some part of me that still loves to play dress up, at least where my characters are concerned.

Researching time-period clothing is one of my favorite areas to explore when starting a new novel. I’ve collected quite a few reference books and bookmarked dozens of websites where one can find full color fashion plates or scans of 19th century fashion magazines. It’s rather like playing paper dolls or having unlimited outfits for Victorian Texas Barbie.

My latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, took me to a time period I had not researched before. The early 1850’s. While many aspects of antebellum fashion mimic that of the hoop skirts so famous during the Civil War era, there were some notable differences. One of those most interesting to me was a staple of women’s clothing that was an outer garment and at the same time an undergarment. It was called simply, an undersleeve.

Undersleeves 2Undersleeves 1












As you can see from the arrows in these pictures, the undersleeves consisted of white or off-white fabric that extended beyond the bell-shaped sleeves of the formal garment. They could be plain or decoratively embroidered. Not only were they stylish, but they served a practical purpose as well. Since they were a separate piece and not sewn directly into the dress itself, they could be easily removed and laundered, thereby saving the dress from the wear-and-tear of excessive washings. A sleeve was less likely to be soiled by everyday activities such as eating, cleaning, or even writing letters when an undersleeve was worn.

I discovered these beautiful examples of undersleeves on an historic costuming site called Maggie May Fashions. The one on the left is a more plain, everyday example, while the one on the right has intricate needlework for a more sophisticated look. The undersleeves were often held in place with a series of ties or could be basted loosely by hand into the inner sleeve of the dress itself. Some ladies used an early form of elastic around the upper casing and kept them completely separate from the dress.

Undersleeves 4Undersleeves 3










1850s Dress


Since my heroine worked as a secretary for the hero, she was always around ink, and was certain to wear her undersleeves. This is the dress that I pictured Nicole wearing  when she first met Darius in his study. I changed the color to a deep wine red instead of the green, but the rest of the description fits.

I was a little disappointed that the dress featured on my book’s cover didn’t have the deep bell sleeves and white undersleeves that were so typical of this era, but since the cover itself was so lovely, I didn’t complain.

FullSteamAhead Cover Final

So what about you?

  • What is the most unusual fashion item that you found yourself falling in love with?

I was a child of the 80’s and while I never went in for the leg warmers or ripped t-shirts, I will admit to owning stone-washed jeans and having big 80’s style bangs.

The Franklin Institute

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In my latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, my hero, Darius Thornton is determined to discover the possible causes of steamboat boiler explosions by conducting various experiments. In his quest for greater scientific understanding and to keep abreast of the latest scientific discoveries in the area, he subscribes to the Journal of the Franklin Institute, an actual publication that is still in print today.

The Franklin Institute Today
The Franklin Institute Today

The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824 for the promotion of the mechanic arts and the exploration of science. It is housed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and yes, it was named for the great Benjamin Franklin. It maintained a museum, and in 1826, started publishing a scientific journal which focused on the field of engineering and mechanics.

Darius turned to this journal to read up on the latest scientific theories regarding boiler construction and safety protocols. However, this journal also contained accounts of many of the explosions themselves, steamboats destroyed by an exploding boiler.

In my research, I found some wonderful old scans of the Journal from back in the same period in which my story takes place. In fact, articles in these old journals inspired many of the ideas I had for ways in which Darius could run his own experiments.

In the January 1850 edition of the Journal, I ran across an article describing the explosion of the Louisiana, the very tragedy that Darius experienced firsthand. Here’s the opening paragraphs:

FullSteamAhead Cover FinalI love that the Franklin Institute is still alive and well today and that it is still centered on scientific education and investigation. Maybe someday I’ll get to see it in person. If they had old journals on display, I’d probably find myself looking for the article that Darius and Nicole submitted somewhere among their 1852 collection.

  • Do you have a museum close to your home that you enjoy visiting?
  • What scientific invention are you most grateful for?

Pirates in Texas?

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Jean LafitteWhen you think of Texas outlaws, you probably think of stagecoach robberies or cattle rustling. Gritty men with bandana-covered faces and revolvers in their hands. You probably don’t picture the man off to the right. But as it turns out, Texas was home to one of the most famous pirates of the 19th century – Jean Lafitte.

Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his brother ran a successful smuggling operation from an island in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay until the American authorities invaded in 1814 and seized most of his fleet. Always ready to make a deal, Lafitte agreed to help General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British attack of 1815 in exchange for a pardon, thus beginning his more honest career as a privateer. Once pardoned, Lafitte moved his base of operations to Galveston Island, Texas where he set up a pirate colony called Campeche.

Well, when I learned this fascinating tidbit, I knew I had to find a way to work this pirate angle into one of my books. Full Steam Ahead proved the perfect place.

In my story, my heroine’s grandfather, Henri Renard served with Lafitte in his privateering efforts and in the course of events, saved the pirate’s life by taking a bullet meant for Lafitte. Lafitte rewards his valor with the gift of his personal, jeweled dagger.

The Lafitte Dagger became the Renard family legacy handed down from father to son. It became a symbol of honor and loyalty, and over time its legend grew. Over the next few decades Galveston underwent great political turmoil – going from Mexican rule through the Texas Revolution; it became an independent republic; then joined the union as a state – and through it all, Renard Shipping flourished. People began to believe that whoever possessed Lafitte’s dagger would find prosperity in the port of Galveston that he established.

When a rival shipping owner sets out to steal the dagger, Nicole Renard, as the only heir to the Renard line, takes the dagger and flees Galveston in an effort to protect her ailing father. Only, instead of escaping to New Orleans to meet up with trusted family friends, she is forced to take a Cutthroat-Island-geena-davisdetour up the Trinity River and ends up on the same plantation as Darius Thornton, an obsessed scientist investigating steam engine boilers. Adventure, romance, and many explosions ensue.

I had a lot of fun giving my heroine several unexpected pirate-y traits, too. (Watch out for her knife skills…)

  • So what are some of your favorite pirate movies?

Anyone remember the old Gina Davis pirate film Cutthroat Island? She made a great female pirate. Loved that one!

Full Steam Ahead – Giveaway!!!

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Click here to order.
Click here
to order.

What do you get when you mix a “mad scientist” hero with a woman on a mission to save her family? Lots of explosive action and heart-pounding romance. And when I say, explosive, I mean KABOOM!!!

When I started writing this book, I knew I wanted to pair a feisty heroine with a hero who was obsessed with science. But what kind of scientific obsession would make sense in Texas in the 19th century? I wanted something exciting, something explosive. At first I played around with making him a chemist, thinking of all the lovely laboratory experiments that could go wrong. But it had been far too many years since my high school chemistry days, and I didn’t trust myself to handle the science needed to accurately portray that type of hero.

Then I remembered steam engines – steamboat engines in particular. Very explosive. I started digging into the research and learned that during the height of riverboat expansion into the American west in the 1840s and 50s, thousands of passengers and crew lost their lives every year in boiler explosions aboard steamboats. So I put my hero aboard an actual 19th century steamboat, the Louisiana, on the day that its boiler exploded in New Orleans.

A few minutes after 5:00 p.m. on November 15, 1849, the Louisiana began to pull away from the wharf, and all at once the boilers exploded with such force that large pieces of the boilers were blown hundred of yards, killing not only passengers, but pedestrians and animals on land as well as severely damaging two other nearby vessels on the river. Some passengers were scalded to death, falling timbers and debris crushed others, still others drowned trying to escape. The mighty ship sunk in a mere ten minutes. Over 150 people died that day. And no one could determine the cause of the explosion.

steamboat explosion

This is where Darius Thornton’s obsession was born. He was aboard the Louisiana during this horrendous tragedy, saw the death and destruction firsthand, and despite his efforts to save the women and children around him, still lost too many. Darius gave up his lucrative position in his family’s business, bought an abandoned plantation near Liberty, Texas along the Trinity River, and started conducting his own experiments with steam engine boilers, determined to find a way to help make steamboat travel safer.



In honor of Full Steam Ahead’s release, I’ll be drawing two names from today’s commenters to receive free, autographed copies. [Available for US addresses only.]

So here’s a question for you . . .

  • Who are your favorite scientific heroes – mad or otherwise?