Karen Cantwell


New Release: Bjorn! on the Fourth of July

Posted by on Jul 7, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Release: Bjorn! on the Fourth of July


Is the summer heat making you cranky? Feeling a bit stressed? Need some giggles to brighten your day? Never fear, Barb is here!

Barbara Marr is a mom, like any in the world, who just wants to make her kids happy. When youngest daughter, Amber, begs to see the great magician Bjorn! on the Fourth of July, Barb can hardly deny her. But, in Barb’s world, the road to happiness is… rocky. Will Barb and Amber overcome life’s hurdles in time to see the magical Bjorn!? Will they be amazed?

This 6000-word short story is available now for Barbara Marr fans and readers who love to laugh. Just .99 cents!
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Release Announcements

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Release Announcements

So, I have a couple of announcements:

First, I have had to delay the release of KISS ME, TATE to mid-July for a couple of reasons beyond my control. But rest assured, you’ll have it in July!

Second, I have a surprise – Barb will be back in a short story to be released for summer holiday reading. The title? BJORN! ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. Barb just wants to have a fun 4th of July with her family – do you think that will happen? I don’t have a cover yet, but will share here as soon as it is available. Need a Barbara Marr fix? Hopefully this will help! *smile*

I DO have a cover for DEAD MAN STALKING (the fifth Barbara Marr Mystery), but am planning a fun cover reveal, so be looking for the fun early this fall. The novel will be released November of this year.

AND… for all of you Marmi fans out there, he and Sophie (and Cal, of course) return this December in SOME LIKE IT HAUNTED. Yeah, I know – I should have planned that for a Halloween release!

And yes, I know that’s more than a couple of announcements. Now you know why I didn’t study math in college…

Have a great weekend everyone, and thank you, as always, for your incredible support. You guys keep me writing!

Best wishes,


Kiss Me Tate – a Preview

Posted by on Apr 28, 2013 in Uncategorized | 5 comments



A new series is on the way!  For those who love a touching romantic comedy, I present the first in my new Love in Rustic Woods novels, Kiss Me, Tate. We last met Bunny Bergen in the Barbara Marr Mystery, Citizen Insane. She returns now, facing more problems after being fired because her boss’s wife didn’t like her. Luckily, she lands a new job at the Rustic Woods Nature Center, but the boss’s wife continues to stir trouble. And if that isn’t bad enough, Bunny now works with Tate Kilbourn, a man she’s secretly longed for since high school. Only, Bunny isn’t exactly his type. Or is she?

Due to be released this summer, here’s an excerpt – Chapter One of Kiss Me, Tate:




Chapter One

Bunny Bergen’s biggest downfall was probably her inability to see past people’s social veneers. Which was why she found herself standing with a toothpaste samples box tucked under one arm and a severance check in her other hand, wondering what the heck had just happened.

She’d been fired. Or rather, “let go” as her boss, Dr. Page, DDS, had said. He’d told her that he couldn’t afford her, but that, she knew, was plain crazy. He barely paid her above minimum wage for a receptionist position that required far more than simply answering a phone for crying out loud. And she was the only receptionist, which meant he’d need to find someone else for less pay pretty darn quick. No, it didn’t add up. Bunny might be naive, but she wasn’t stupid.

As she balanced the box filled with her few personal items to find her car keys in her purse, Lois, the senior dental technician, hurried down the front walk of the RusticWoodsMedicalBuilding. She stopped in front of Bunny, putting a fist to her hip. “He did it, huh?” The woman, easily ten years Bunny’s senior, looked at her watch. “What did he do, call you in early to give you the boot?”

Bunny nodded, the reminder of her termination episode knotting her stomach. “You knew?”

“Let’s just say that I overheard some things.”

“What things?”

“Remember yesterday, when Broom Hildie was in?”

Bunny deepened her frown. She didn’t care for the name the staff had given Dr. Page’s wife. It seemed awfully harsh given that the woman was perfectly cordial to her yesterday. Yet, during her short, three-week stint at the dental practice, the technicians had shared rants more than once about ‘Broom Hildie’ Page. She thought back to previous day and Mrs. Page’s lunch-time visit. She had smiled and shaken Bunny’s hand, introducing herself. Said how glad she was to meet her and that Dr. Page had mentioned many times how lucky he was to find someone as hard working and dedicated as Bunny. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Bunny. She shook her head. “I don’t get it. She was nice. I was nice. What did I miss?”

“She had an apoplectic fit outside when they left for lunch. She didn’t even wait to get to their car before she tore into him.”

“About what?”

“Your boobs.”

“What?” Bunny covered her chest instinctively, mortified.

“Said they were hanging out like you were having a two-for-one sale.”

“They were not!” Bunny dipped her gaze and examined the guilty parties. It was true, she didn’t try to hide them. Her preference was for sweaters and blouses that complemented the cleavage she inherited from Nana McDougal, but she sure as heck didn’t let them “hang out.” Plenty of respectable women wore the kind of clothes she wore. The accusation caused her face to flame.

“It gets worse,” Lois said.

Bunny didn’t know if she wanted to hear anything worse. Lois told her anyway. “She called you a skank.”

The word hit Bunny like a punch to the stomach, making her nauseous. She’d been the source of nasty rumors before, passed on by people who didn’t know her. People who judged her simply because she was attractive and liked to wear decidedly feminine attire. She didn’t need this kind of trauma in her life again. Taking a moment to steady her rage and fantasizing about spitting on Broom Hildie, she pressed her car fob and heard it unlock. With some clumsy maneuverings, she managed to open the door and shove the box and her purse into the back seat. Slamming the door loudly helped her vent some of the anger and upset, but certainly not all of it.

Lois pulled something from her coat pocket. “Here.” She handed a folded piece of blue paper to Bunny. “I thought this might happen and I know you need the work. They need a receptionist at the NatureCenter, but they’re interviewing today. You should probably get over there as soon as possible.”

Bunny took the paper with shaking hands.

“I’m sorry,” Lois said. “I know it hurts, but I thought you should know.”

Tears welled in Bunny’s eyes, but she fought them back. “It’s…” she gulped, not wanting Lois to see her break down. “It’s fine.” She waved the blue paper in the air while opening the driver’s side door. “Thank you for this.”

Once seated in her car with the heat running, Bunny pondered her dilemma. She should sue. Surely you couldn’t just fire a person based on her choice of neckline or ridiculous lies spread by cranky wives. The waterworks began to flow at the thought. She would have to hire a lawyer and lawyer’s fees were the reason she’d taken this ridiculously low-paying job to begin with. Fighting her ex-husband for custody of her two boys had nearly bankrupt her, taking a serious toll on the financially secure way of life she’d always enjoyed.

After allowing herself a ten-Kleenex cry in her twenty year-old, junk yard-ready Ford, Bunny unfolded the paper and inspected it more carefully. Lois’ scrawl was nearly indecipherable, which didn’t matter, really. If she did decide to rush over, red-rimmed eyes and all, she certainly knew her way to the NatureCenter. Most people in Rustic Woods did, especially if they had children. Her own boys had attended summer camps there as well as boy scout nature hikes.

The question was, did she want to do this interview at all? She didn’t have a resume with her or anything. Not that there was anything on the resume. The job with Dr. Page was her first real work experience outside of a summer intern job between her junior and senior years in college, and that was with a fashion writer. Not exactly Nature Center sort of a background. And technically now she’d have to add her three week stint at Dr. Page’s that ended in termination. Her cheeks cramped as water filled her eyes again. She yanked three more tissues from the box, grabbed her phone and dialed Barb for advice.

Her friend picked up on the third ring and Bunny started blubbering again, even before she could hear the “Hello.”

“Bunny, what’s wrong? Has something happened?” Barb asked in a concerned voice. Barbara Marr lived one street over from Bunny and was a rock as far as she was concerned. They’d become friends during a very strange time in Bunny’s life, and the fact that Barb had tried to shoot her in the foot only strengthened her admiration for the woman. She’d done it to save Bunny’s life, after all.

Bunny choked back her sobs. “He fired me.”

“The dentist? Why?”

“My cleavage, apparently.”

“This sounds like a discussion we should have over a glass of wine.”

Bunny laughed over a sniffle. “It’s nine o’clock in the morning, Barb.”

“Coffee then. Do you want to come over?”

“I don’t know. Lois – one of the dental technicians – told me about another job but I need to go over right now.”

“Another dentist office?”

“No. The NatureCenter.”

“That’s great!”

“You think?”

“I do. You need a pep talk? I can meet you there.”

Bunny sniffled some more. She didn’t deserve a friend as sweet as Barb. “Thanks. Can you bring—”

“Getting a turtleneck from my closet right now. And a sweater for good measure.”



Barb’s white mini van was already parked in the large graveled parking lot of the RusticWoodsNatureCenter when Bunny pulled in herself, her cranky old car coughing and sputtering when she turned off the ignition.

They met in between the two cars. The curly-haired woman gave Bunny a tight hug that really did make her feel much better. “Thank you for coming. I’m still not sure about this though.”

“Pshaw,” said her friend. “You’ll go in there and knock ’em dead. They’ll love you. Probably hire you on the spot. Now let’s get you interview-ready.”

Bunny looked around. “Where?”

Barb tugged hard to open the sliding van door. “My van. Hop in the back.”

Bunny, despite her name, didn’t hop anywhere easily. She was a tall woman with some fairly long and lanky bones.

Grinning, Barb handed her an emerald green turtleneck, and smiled. “Green to match your eyes. No one will even notice your knockers. Speaking of which, you owe me a story while you’re dressing.”

With a doubtful look on her face, Bunny wrangled herself into the back while trying to keep her black skirt from shimmying too high or her heels from flipping off her feet. Once in, she breathed heavily, winded from the work-out involved. When spring arrived, she needed put some serious effort into a plan for more exercise.

Barb followed behind, slid the door closed, and then scanned the parking lot through the tinted windows. “I think you’re safe. Undress, and I’ll keep lookout.”

Bunny unbuttoned her blouse while recounting her tale of woe, but grunted the story out less easily while trying to work her way into her friend’s turtleneck. Once she had one arm half way on, she knew she was in trouble. It was tight. Very tight. “Lois said she called me a skank,” more or less finishing her story. “What size is this?” she asked Barb.

“Medium. A skank? Based on what?”

“I don’t know.” Bunny contorted this way and that attempting to get the thing over her head and down over her bodice. “Medium, huh?”

“What size do you usually wear?” Barb asked her.

“Not a medium.” She pulled and yanked and shimmied. Finally, she had the turtleneck in place. Well, sort of. She looked down.

“Uh oh,” said Barb.

Uh oh was right. Donning a top that was too small had the opposite effect she was going for. Instead of diminishing the large appearance of her chest, the constricting nature of the fabric accentuated her girth up top. Her hopes sank. “I have a broad back.”

“To match your broad front,” said Barb with a light chuckle. “I’m so jealous. The only times I ever had a cleavage was when I was breastfeeding. I took pictures so I could look back and remember the good times.” She shook her head while Bunny laughed, thankful for her friend’s dry humor to lift her spirits.

“Back to the drawing board on Project Hide and No Peek,” Barb said on a sigh. “Get your blouse back on. We’ll have to cover you with this sweater.” Barb gave another scan to make sure the coast was clear for Bunny to strip.

Back outside, they battle-planned the wearing of the sweater. Which was also on the small side for Bunny, but not nearly the disaster of the turtleneck. Bunny brought up the idea of wearing her winter coat in, feigning the feel of a fever coming on, but they both nixed that approach pretty fast. Not only would it make Bunny look odd, but they’d probably end the interview too quickly, worried of germs in the air.

She fiddled with the sweater some more, then decided she’d done enough. Either she’d get this job or she wouldn’t, but she couldn’t worry anymore. She needed to just get in there, get it done and get out. She took a deep breath. “I’m ready.”

“That’s the spirit.” Barb gave her a warm smile. She took Bunny by the shoulders. “Remember, you’re a brave, strong, confident woman.”

“I’m not that confident…”

“What did you just say?”

“Confident. I’m a confident woman.”

“So confident, they’ll have no choice but to give you that job, right here, right now. Do you want me to come in with you?”

Bunny’s first thought was Yes please. In fact, can you interview in my place? But she dug down deep and found some courage. She shook her head. “No. No. I’m good.”

“Do you want me to wait?”

“I don’t know how long I’ll be. You should go home. Can I come by after?”

“Sure. I’ll have coffee waiting.”

“Have that wine chilled just in case.”


Bunny stepped through the doorway of the RusticWoodsNatureCenter and, not-so-confidently, peeked around the quiet place for a person to consult about this possible receptionist position. To both her right and left were rooms with posters on the walls and aquariums containing local plant life and probably a snake or two, if she remembered right from her trips with the boys. Was there a reception desk? She couldn’t remember. If they needed a receptionist, there must be a reception desk. Her heels clacked on the hard wood floor as she proceeded tentatively forward, her head propelled forward, leading the rest of her shaky body. “Hello?” She clacked a few more steps ahead. “Hello?”

Aha. There it was. Once more than halfway down the main hallway, she saw the appropriately rustic wooden reception desk. Seated there was a young girl who looked no older than her son Charlie. She wondered why the girl wasn’t in school. Or why she wasn’t answering Bunny’s call. A few more loud steps, and Bunny could see the reason why. She was reading a book and had tuned the world out with ear buds and an iPod.

She clattered a little more boldly to the desk. A teenager wasn’t so threatening. She could handle that. The girl still hadn’t noticed her, however, despite the fact that she stood right in front of her now. She cleared her throat. No reaction.

“Tap her book. She’s oblivious.” The low male voice came from behind Bunny and startled her enough to make her jump. Sitting on a bench against the wall was a man and a woman. The man was dressed like he’d just come from a shift at an auto mechanic shop. The brunette woman was younger and professionally interview ready in a salmon suit, which Bunny felt that while attractive in a sort of Floridian way, was entirely out of place in the month of February. She gripped a soft leather briefcase in her lap, as if afraid the man next to her might steal it.

“Tap the book,” the man repeated. “That’s what I did.”

Bunny smiled hesitantly at the grimy man. She turned and reached out, giving the girl’s book a small poke with her index finger.

Rather than seeming startled, the girl raised her eyes with an annoyed glare. After what felt like years to Bunny, the little brat pulled one bud from her ear. “Can I help you?”

“I was told… I mean, I’d like to…”

The girl sighed while Bunny fumbled to speak her thoughts coherently. The sigh irritated Bunny, prodding her to get a grip on her wits. “The receptionist position,” she said with more certainty. “I want to interview.”

“What’s your name?”

“Bu—” She stopped herself just in time. When interviewing, she always used her legal name, Robin. Sounded more adult she thought. More professional. “Robin Bergen.”

The girl made a grand gesture of leaning far over to look at a clip board. When she returned to book reading position, she acted very bored. “You’re not on the list.”

“That’s okay. I was told if I came right over, I could interview. I have a name…” she pulled the paper from her pocket. “I’m not sure what it is though. Allison, maybe?”

The girl stared at Bunny. Bunny stared at the girl. A big clock on the wall made of redwood ticked. And it tocked. The unblinking girl tapped her finger once, twice, three times. “Or maybe it was Avril,” Bunny finally said, her confidence waning. “I couldn’t read her writing.” She held it up for the girl to read, but the imp didn’t seem interested. Without taking her accusing eyes off Bunny, she picked up the phone and punch a button. “Abigail?” she said into the receiver.

Bunny heard a beeping noise, and a moment later a woman’s voice sounded over the intercom. “Yes, Corrinne?”

“Woman named Robin here was told she could just show up for an interview. What do I do?”

“She’s not on the list?”


Afraid her chances at the job were slipping away, Bunny waved her hand in front of the girl’s face. “Bunny Bergen. She might know that name. My friend Lois told me to come.”

The girl emitted a sigh with so much force that papers on the desk fluttered. “Now she says her name is Bunny Bergen.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, have her fill out an application. We’ll see her at the end if we have time.”

Bunny thanked the ill mannered receptionist reluctantly, plucked the offered application from her hand before it could be rescinded, and took the only space left on the bench next to the grimy man. She tightened the grip on her pen and focused her attention on making herself look good on paper.

The briefcase-clutching lady in the salmon suit was called in after a very keenly dressed, well-manicured man exited from the door to their right labeled Conference Room. The man had a wide smile on his face. Must have gone well. Darn. Bunny’s nerves were beginning to affect her stomach. It twisted and turned and gurgled. Quite audibly.

Time seemed to creep by at a horrifically slow pace as she waited her turn. Bunny looked at the clock on the wall for the hundredth time. It was dangerously close to noon. Would they have time for her? Finally, the grimy looking man came through the door and motioned to her with one hand while holding the door open with the other. “They said you can go in.”

“Oh, thank you.” Bunny rose, gathered her things, made sure the sweater wrapped nicely over her bosom, and teetered on her heels past the man. She stopped in a panic, right at the door.

“It’s okay,” said the man smiling. “You’ll do great. I’ll bet you’re a shoe in.”

Bunny felt guilty for thinking unkind things about his appearance. Hadn’t she just lost a job for that very reason? “Thanks.” She paused for a deep breath, then continued forth, trying to convince herself that she was, in fact, a shoe-in.

She had to pass through two sets of heavy wooden doors before entering the space that seemed to be less room and more conference table. And more people. What the heck? Bunny envisioned a one-on-one interview, much like the easy going time she had with Dr. Page, who had kindly put her at ease almost instantly. Here, at the horribly long table, sat five people. Five. She thought surely this must be the wrong interview location. For a much more important position than receptionist. The faces stared at her. Three men, two women. None of them smiled.

“I’m, um… sorry,” Bunny stumbled. “I think I’m in the wrong place.”

One of the women, one with scary hair and a scowl, spoke up. “Are you applying for the receptionist position or aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes.” Bunny held up the completed application. Her nerves were so frazzled, she thought she might faint soon. I should have skipped this and gone straight to Barb’s for that wine.

The frizzy haired woman raised her hand in the air, indicating to Bunny that she should bring the application to her, which Bunny did. While Bunny made the long walk to the back of the table where the woman sat, the woman made introductions. She pointed to the woman on her right – a short, round woman with glasses. “This is Olga, the NatureCenter’s Publicity and Outreach Coordinator. I’m Abigail, the Activities Coordinator.” She pointed to a man next to her with a brown bushy mustache and even bushier eyebrows who looked like he belonged in a barber shop quartet. “This is Rupert Long, whom you may recognize – he’s a member of the board of the Rustic Woods Association.” Next in the lineup was a thin, pasty-faced man with a pointy nose. “That’s George.” Bunny wondered why poor George doesn’t rate a designation. “And, finally,” said Abigail, pointing to the man at the end of the half-circle of interrogators… Bunny’s eyes landed on the dark-haired, bearded man with the sleepy onyx eyes, who looked very familiar. Her heart fluttered when she realized why. No introduction was necessary. She knew the man. Not well, but she definitely knew him. He was back in town and, holy guacamole, he was more gorgeous than ever.

Elation quickly turned to agitation. Crap, she thought, why here? Why now? Now I’ll really screw things up.

Abigail’s introduction continued, “This is—”

Bunny hadn’t meant to interrupt the woman. It just sort of happened. “I know, Tate,” she said, looking at the man. Her voice trembled slightly. “Nice to see you again.”

Really, really nice.


Keep Me Ghosted is Here!

Posted by on Mar 25, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Keep Me Ghosted is Here!

Keep me Ghosted-800-Height

Ghosts. Do you Believe?

Sophie Rhodes doesn’t have a choice. She’s surrounded by them.

Desperate to pay the bills, 29-year-old Sophie ignores the advice of her stuffy spirit-friend, Marmaduke Dodsworth, and takes a job with the handsome Dr. Callahan, an optometrist with a desperate situation of his own. The good doctor’s problem? He has a spirit-friend as well: one with a fiery crush and a vicious jealous streak. When chemistry starts to brew between Sophie and Dr. Callahan, his green-eyed ghost wreaks some bad-tempered havoc, scaring away his patients and putting Sophie on edge. Will Sophie give up the ghost and quit the new job, or buck up and find a way to rid Dr. Callahan of his pesky specter, freeing their romance to find a life of its own?
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For a short time, Keep Me Ghosted will be only .99 cents, then rising to a regular list price of $3.99 after the release period. The first week’s royalties are being donated to Parents Active for Vision Education.

The Eyes Have It

Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Eyes Have It

brock string

In another life, before I took to writing full time, I had a different, very rewarding job – I was a vision therapist. I worked with children who had vision problems that affected their ability to learn. Many of these children (most, in fact) had 20/20 vision. But what most people don’t realize is that having 20/20 vision actually means very little in the grand scope of the visual system. When a person has 20/20 vision, that only means they can read those letters on a chart from a certain distance. It doesn’t speak to their ability to use their eyes for more difficult tasks like reading.

Um, okay, Karen, why are you telling us this? We came here to learn more about your books…

Yes, yes, my books! Well, when deciding to write the new Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance series, I wanted to give my male romantic hero a profession that was more specific than just, a lawyer, or a doctor, or a coffee shop barista. They say write what you know, and one thing I know very well, is vision therapy. My own husband is an optometrist in this specialized field, and the reason why I became a vision therapist, myself. Hence, the decision was made, Cal Callahan would be a developmental optometrist – an eye doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating patients (by and large, children) with Learning-related Vision Disorders. I hope it gives him some depth as a character and makes him likable to my readers.

Oh, and to make it fun, Cal is haunted by a ghost named Moonflower. Think that can’t be fun? Read Keep Me Ghosted when it comes out the end of this month!

As I always do for fans – Keep Me Ghosted will be released at .99 cents for a short period of time so you can snatch it up at a bargain. My way of saying thank you for your support. Additionally, with this book, because the subject of Learning-Related Vision Problems is so near and dear to my heart, I will be donating the first week’s royalties to Parents Active for Vision Education.

To learn more about the importance of vision in learning, you can go to the website for College of Optometrist in Vision Development. There you will find a wealth of information as well as a list of symptoms.


And now, for a little teaser – a short excerpt from Keep Me Ghosted:

Embarrassed by the attention, I shrugged my shoulders and tip-toed to the circle while flashing an apologetic smile to the lady in the sundress. Moonflower, who sat on his left, shot angry-dagger glances in my direction, so I was very thankful when Dr. Callahan placed the chairs on his right, asking the sweet little lady there to kindly move just enough to allow room for me and my sheer friend.

All eyes, human and spirit, were focused on Marmi and me until the chairs were in place and we were finally seated. I cleared my throat, very uncomfortable with the attention. “Please,” I said, “continue with your discussion. I’m so sorry to have interrupted.”

“Yes,” agreed Marmi. “Do go on with the chin wagging. Nothing like a good family tussle to entertain the dull and put a spark in the weary.”

“Marmi,” I chastised. “Don’t be rude. We’re guests here.”

“Rudeness was certainly not my intention. I am nothing but sincere when I say I find generational drama most captivating.” He turned to address the group moderator. “I so apologize if my comment was taken as cheeky.”

She did not respond.

“She probably doesn’t understand the word ‘cheeky'” I said.

“More apologies,” he said to her. “Rude. Disrespectful. Ill-mannered.”

Still, sundress lady did not respond, but did scribble on the notebook in her lap.

Marmaduke’s feathers were getting ruffled again as she continued to ignore him. “Does she understand any of those words? Is the woman completely illiterate?”

I shrugged.

The freckle-faced ghost piped up. “What’s chin wagging anyway?”

“Talking,” answered Marmi. “Chatting or gabbing as you Americans—”

Sundress lady had finally returned her attention to the group and plowed right over Marmaduke’s newest attempt at soliloquy.

“So, welcome to our group, and a special thanks to Dr. Callahan for inviting you. My name is Sandy. I’m the group counselor. Please, go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us your name, your friend’s name, and what brought you here today.”

“Yes then, well, my name is Marmaduke Dodsworth, I once hailed from the town of Dartford in Kent, England. I made passage to America in the year of—”

The lady’s eyes were hooked on mine, however. I knew she wasn’t listening to a thing Marmaduke was saying, but was instead, waiting for me to answer.

“Marmi,” I whispered, “I think she was talking to me.”

He deflated. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

Keep Me Ghosted Coming Soon

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Keep Me Ghosted Coming Soon

Keep-me-GhostedJust one month from today, Keep Me Ghosted will be available to Kindle, Nook, and Kobo readers! I’m very excited to be debuting this Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance Series. To tickle your reading taste buds, I’ve decided to give a preview. I really hope you enjoy it!

And stay tuned – I’ll be posting and running contests during the next month, prior to the release.

And now, without further ado, I give you Chapter One of Keep Me Ghosted:

Chapter One

Marmaduke Dodsworth was good at many things, but probably his greatest talent was for talking my ear off. If I didn’t clamp him down, he’d make me late for another interview.

After slipping my battered Honda into a space barely big enough for a Matchbox car, and punching the gear shift into park, I turned in my seat and put it to Marmaduke succinctly: “Stay here. Shut up.” I pointed a stern finger in his direction for emphasis.

Marmi was offended. “Madame Sophie,” he said, the words rolling elegantly from his British tongue and oozing slowly like sap from a maple. “I am not some mongrel to which you must command a ‘stay.’ Shall I roll over as well? Or would you like me to beg? More importantly, your second directive is rendered entirely moot, should I choose to obey the first, for if I were to ‘stay here,’ then surely, my ‘shutting-up’ would hardly matter. Why, I could continue to bang on about any number of subjects and you would be none the wiser.”

Based on the context, I assumed “bang on about” meant pretty much the same thing as having diarrhea of the mouth, but I wasn’t about to encourage further banging by asking for clarification. I’d have Marmaduke translate that British-ism another time. I did feel guilty for the harsh command, though. He was right – he wasn’t a dog in need of training. He was a couth, well-manicured, attractive, and upstanding man who, if circumstances were different, would have had relationship potential. Even though he wasn’t exactly my type, romantically speaking, his dark hair, brown bedroom eyes, and firm jaw line had probably caused more than a few girls to swoon. What I loved about Marmi was his dry wit and, of course, that fun English accent. We had met during a particularly troubling time in my life and he’d proven to be a stalwart friend. Unfortunately, he had also proven to be so intrusive during my job quest that boundaries had to be set, or I was destined for certain destitution.

I checked my makeup in the rearview mirror, made a mental note that my new short hairstyle was in need of a trim already, then reached into the backseat for the résumé folder. “You’re right. Talk all you want, but please, please, please stay here.”

He huffed like a chastised child while straightening the lapels of his very dated suit jacket. “As you wish.”

I studied his smooth, clear face for signs of defiance. “I’m serious. If I could lock you in, I would. You cost me that last interview.”

“The man was a letch, a cad with no morals. No integrity. Pond scum, I believe is a term you have used to describe such filth. You can do better.”

“I need a job, not a babysitter.”

Marmaduke was obviously more hurt than offended by my last remark and that made me feel worse. I tried to make nice. “Dude, I’m sorry. Just stay here. Promise?”

He turned his gaze out the window, giving me the cold shoulder. “‘Dude.’ She calls me ‘Dude.’ What am I? A rootin’ tootin’ cowboy on the range?”

I rolled my eyes and closed the door behind me, worried that he neglected to promise anything.

As I crossed the parking lot, my heels clicking on the black macadam, I double-checked the address scribbled on the résumé folder. 2424 Granite Hills Drive, Suite A. Scanning the front of the two-story brick building in front of me, I saw Suites B, C, and D, but no A. My head bobbed back and forth from the folder to the building. Perplexed, my next plan of action was to pop into Suite B and ask for directions to the mysterious Suite A.

A voice in my ear caused me to flinch. “You look lost.” It seemed that while I had been wishing for a GPS, a man had stepped up beside me from behind.

Still rattled by the suite confusion and worried about the interview, I gave him the briefest of glances. “Sort of.” I pointed to the address on my folder. “I’m looking for Suite A. I don’t see it.”

“Sure. Know it well.” He motioned with an elbow. “Follow me.”

Doing as instructed, I shadowed the tall, lanky man who I now noticed was carrying a McDonald’s bag in one hand and a cup of soda in the other. His tan dress pants and long-sleeved, white dress shirt told me that he probably worked in the business park himself. He ambled to the left side of the building and then around the corner, which was nicely shaded by a cluster of Dogwood trees. The shade was a welcome relief since my car’s air conditioning had gone belly up two weeks before the heat of summer arrived. I winced against the pain in my feet that were squished into the pair of heels that, in retrospect, were probably too high for an interview. But they went well with the business-like blouse and skirt ensemble. Should have gone with the half-inch heels or the flats, I thought.

Shifting the bag to his soda hand, he retrieved a set of keys from his pants pocket and proceeded to a glass-paned door. Above the door in black letters were the words Dr. H.U. Callahan, Optometrist. I sighed happily, thankful that the name, Dr. Callahan, matched the name on my folder. The tall McDonald’s-eating guy had helped me find the right place. Now hopefully I wasn’t late. I corrected my posture, checked the buttons on my blue interview-appropriate blouse, straightened the wrinkles in my black just-above-the-knee skirt, and did a quick finger-brush through my hair.

The man pulled open the door in front of us, and smiled. “After you.”

I realized in my haste and distraction, that I’d never really acknowledged him. I returned the smile and took in his face. It was a nice face. Pleasant. Friendly. He looked young – possibly an intern. Accepting his offer to go first, I stepped into the deliciously cool office. “Thank you,” I said. “Do you work here?”

He laughed and cocked his head in a self-conscious manner. “That’s the idea anyway.”

The waiting room was small and not very tidy. Actually, it was a mess. The reception desk directly in front of me lacked a vital component – a receptionist. But, of course, that made sense, since I was there to apply for that very position. Stacks of papers were piled here and there on the desk and on the cabinets behind it, as if awaiting some form of organization. The possible intern moved around behind the desk, set his McDonald’s stash down, then gave me another unsure sort of smile. He opened his mouth as if he was going to speak, but then, possibly reconsidering, shut it again and said nothing. Oh boy, I thought, now I’m going to have to deal with Dr. Callahan’s awkward assistant. I put my hand out to introduce myself. “Sophie Rhodes. I have an interview for the receptionist position. I was told to ask for Dr. Callahan.”

He shook my hand so hard my elbow nearly dislocated. “Yes. Yes.”

“Is he here?” My hand was beginning to ache.

“Yes.” He turned his head to the side. “Not now,” he mumbled.

The man kept pumping while my bewilderment grew. “Not now? I’m pretty sure I’d arranged—”

“Not you,” he interrupted.

I extracted my nearly purple hand from his and scanned the room for signs of other life that he might be addressing. We were, it seemed, alone. Although I knew, better than anyone, that things were not always what they seemed. The teeny tiniest hint of a familiar sensation made me wonder, is it possible? I shrugged off the thought and returned my attention to the oddball intern. Although, really, he was kind of a cute oddball. Inviting face, olive complexion, crooked smile, sparkly blue eyes. And, upon closer inspection, maybe a little older than I originally thought. “Uh,” I continued. “Do you think you could tell him that I’m here?”

A look of understanding crossed his face. “I get it now.” His head bobbed. “You’re confused.” More head bobbing. “My fault, my fault.” He pointed to his chest. “I’m Dr. Callahan. I know you’re here.”

Ah geez. There, I’d gone and done it again – blown another interview. I must have looked like a complete idiot. I know I felt like one. Intern. Ugh. True, the baby-faced doctor seemed a little flaky, and I’d had my travails working for flaky people before, but man, I needed the money. Needed it bad. The situation called for immediate repair. I wouldn’t bring up his young appearance – he was probably sensitive. “I’m so sorry…” I dove in. “I…guess I expected a doctor would be…” Seemingly possessed by some rash moment of utter stupidity, I began babbling about lab coats. “Wearing a lab coat. You know, doctors and lab coats.” Crap. I should have gone with the your-baby-face-threw-me-off excuse. Who was looking flaky now? “I mean, don’t doctors…you know…wear lab coats?” Crash and burn, Sophie. You just crashed and burned.

He sipped from his soda straw and eyed me with a cocked brow. “No.” Another sip. “When can you start?”

Stunned that my lab coat obsession and inability to string a coherent sentence together hadn’t hurt my chances for employment, I jumped on it. “I’m available immediately.”

His shoulders relaxed and he released a healthy sigh. “Great.” He pointed to some items on the desk. “Here are the phones. There’s the appointment book. You’re a life saver.” He picked up his meal and started down the hall that led to the back of the suite.

“Wait!” I called after him. “What are you paying? What are the hours? Don’t you want to know if I’m a crook who will rob you blind?”

He stopped and turned around. “Are you?”

I shrugged. “No.”

He took two steps back in my direction. “You didn’t look like a crook. How much do you want?”

Whoa. How much did I want? I’d never heard that one before. “You don’t do this a lot, do you?”

“I’m not following you.”

“You don’t seem very experienced in hiring people. You never ask them what kind of salary they want. You tell them what you’re paying.”

“I’ve hired lots of people. I just can’t seem to keep them from quitting.” He pulled a limp fried potato from the bag. “French fry?”

The intoxicating scent of McDonald’s fries did make my empty tummy rumble. But I shook my head to decline while wondering about the contents of that cup he was sipping from. Perhaps it was something more potent than soda. Like… rum maybe? “What happened to your last receptionist?” I asked him.

“Sheila. She left for a cigarette break. Never came back.” He swallowed, then frowned. “Shoot. Fries are cold already.”

“Are you hard to work for?” I asked, not that I expected him to say yes.

His light brown brows furrowed. “I don’t think so. I try to be very accommodating.” His shoulders slumped.  “Sheila even set her own hours. I only saw patients when she could come in.” His head turned slightly and he lowered his voice. “Not now.”

His behavior was becoming suspicious, to say the least.

I narrowed an eye at him. “You said it again.”

“What did I say?”

“‘Not now.’ You said, ‘Not now,’ out of context, like you’re talking to someone else. Do you have Tourette’s?”

His attention had wandered to the contents of his bag. “I wish it were that simple. They gave me two apple pies, you want one?”

Ah geez. I took a deep breath. “When is your next patient?”

“That’s a good question.” Setting down the bag and soda again, he brushed his hands together and grabbed the appointment book he’d pointed to earlier. He flipped through the pages, then pointed. “Four o’clock.”

I looked at my watch. It was 12:20. “You’re not very busy, are you?”

He nodded. “It’s a problem.”

I blew out a sigh, not believing myself what I was about to do. I reached up, took Dr. Callahan by the shoulders (noticing he would have been just the right height for a slow dance partner), and guided him down into the rolling chair next to the desk. I had his attention. Planting a firm fist on my hip, I made my pitch. “I need sixteen dollars an hour. I’m worth it. And don’t worry, I don’t smoke. I’d like an hour for lunch. What hours do you want to be open?”

“Ten until six?”

“Good. I’ll be here at nine-thirty and close up the office at six-fifteen. Monday through Friday?”

He nodded while his face relaxed with relief. I smiled inwardly when I noticed he was even cuter sitting down. Quite handsome, actually. Boyish good looks. Generally, I was attracted to darker, more rugged men with an edge to them, but this Dr. Callahan…there was something about him.

That’s when she materialized. Aha, I thought. That’s who he was talking to. He has a ghost. She must have read my mind. Her long, dark hair was bone-straight, falling far past her waist; her nose thin and elegant. Her clothing – a long, casual dress – was a current-day style, but her skin color and features told me she was Asian. Indian, I guessed. Her eyes were black as pitch and she narrowed them at me like a cat on the hunt. She wasn’t happy that I was on the scene. Not one bit. She leaned into Dr. Callahan and whispered in his ear.

“What’s she saying?” I asked.

He brushed his hand in the air near his ear as if driving away a gnat and gave me a surprised stare. “Excuse me?”

“Your friend there. What’s she saying?”

Rolling his chair forward slowly, he whispered. “You mean, you see her?”

I cleared my throat and mimicked his hushed speech. “I have one too.”

As if on cue, Marmaduke’s voice sounded in my ear. “Sophie, dearest,” he said. “We have a bit of a problem.”

“Not now, Marmi.” Poor ghosts. They get that a lot: “Not now.”

My new boss didn’t catch on very fast. “Who are you talking to?”

“Show yourself, Marmaduke.” My spirit friend materialized as ordered – bowler hat and all. Dr. Callahan’s jaw dropped. Having a spirit of his own, the good doctor didn’t appear frightened the way most people probably would. But by his reaction, I guessed that the apparition draping herself over his body like hot fudge on a sundae was his first experience with the otherworldly.

Time for introductions. “Marmaduke,” I said, “meet Dr. Callahan. Dr. Callahan, Marmaduke Dodsworth.”

Unfortunately, Marmarduke was very protective of me and didn’t offer an acknowledgement, pleasant or otherwise, to poor Dr. Callahan who kept swatting at the dark, disgruntled lady who floated around his head.

“Who’s the queen of dramatics?” Marmaduke asked, with more than a hint of annoyance.

I crossed my arms, sizing her up. “Not sure yet.”

“I’d love to hang around, as you Americans say, and acquaint myself more,” Marmaduke sniffed sarcastically, eyeing Dr. Callahan and his attachment as if they smelled like rotten eggs, “but there has been an occurrence for which something must be done.”

“You brought a ghost back from England?”, asked Dr. Callahan. He looked Marmi up and down. “When were you alive, anyway?”

At first, Marmaduke scowled. I didn’t expect him to answer, but he surprised me. “I was born on November seventh, eighteen hundred and eighty-four and I passed from the physical plane on the sad date of June first, nineteen hundred and fifteen, here, in your fair township of Stephens City. Struck down in the prime of my life by an automobile.”

Dr. Callahan’s eyes widened. He seemed impressed.

“We met at a bar,” I added. “Long story.”

“Sophie,” Marmaduke pressed. “The occurrence…”

“Marmi, I just accepted this job, and now, as you can see, I have to contend with a ghost that doesn’t seem to like me very much. Can’t it wait?”

Marmaduke spoke out of the corner of his mouth, as if that would really keep the others in the room from hearing him. “Yes, well, waiting would be a problem. See, the bloke prefers the razzers be notified sooner rather than later.”

There was no context for that word. I had to ask. “What’s a razzer?”

“The police, my dear.”

Something about his tone made me nervous about asking the next question. “And who’s the bloke you’re referring to?” I winced, waiting for the answer.

“The dead man in Suite C.”

New Release: Barbara Marr Mysteries Boxed Set!

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on New Release: Barbara Marr Mysteries Boxed Set!



Yes! You can now purchase the first four e-novels in the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series in the Barbara Marr Mysteries Boxed Set.  And here’s the really exciting part: from March 7th until March 14th, the price is only $3.99 – that’s four books for the price of one. Get one for yourself, or gift the set to a friend. On March 15th, the price rises to $6.99.

The books in this set:

Take the Monkeys and Run, Citizen Insane, Silenced by the Yams, and Saturday Night Cleaver.

Amazon Kindle Store Link
Kobo Store Link

I’m sorry, but Barnes and Noble has not yet made the set available at their online store. As soon as the link goes live, I will post here for Nook readers.

March is a busy month, with the release of Keep Me Ghosted coming up, so be sure to keep checking this blog for news and fun contests!!  And remember, two of the best ways to get information fast:

1) subscribe to my newsletter (see right side bar – I don’t spam or sell email addresses) AND

2) “Like” my FB page where tons of fun things happen!

Have a wonderful day full of fun and laughter,



Happy New Year!

Posted by on Jan 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Happy New Year!

We made it! Today is the first day of a New Year!

As promised, I wanted to share my plans for book releases in 2013:

First out will be Keep Me Ghosted, the first in the new Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance Series.

Desperate for a job to pay the bills, Sophie Rhodes ignores the advice of her spirit-friend, Marmaduke Dodsworth, and accepts a position with Dr. Callahan, an optometrist who is just as desperate for a receptionist that won’t quit after a week. The problem? Dr. Callahan is haunted by a spirit who is very possessive and has a vicious jealous streak. When some obvious chemistry begins to brew between Sophie and Dr. Callahan, his green-eyed ghost wreaks havoc and begins scaring patients away. Will Sophie give up the ghost and find a new job, or find a way to safely rid Dr. Callahan of his pesky specter?
Due out March 31, 2013 in ebook for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo
To be followed by Kiss Me, Tate, the first novel in the new Love in Rustic Woods Series. Barbara Marr will make a cameo appearance in this new romantic comedy series featuring beloved characters from the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series.
Due out July of 2013. Cover art to follow.
Early Fall will see the release of the YA novel, Piper Nash and the Power Police.

Piper is just an ordinary teen until the day she is pulled into Elizabethan England by a young witch seeking to find “the one” who will change the world by bringing down the magically omnipotent, time traveling Power Police.

Due out tentatively, October, 2013.
…and to end off the year?
Dead Man Stalking, book five in the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series.
Due out, early December, 2013
Happy reading!
Best wishes,

T-shirt Winners!

Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

As we approach the New Year, it’s time to announce the winners of my last contest for the year 2012!!!
The winner of the T-shirt poll was the Take the Monkeys and Run cover, so above, you see the gift that five lucky people will be receiving!
So, not to keep everyone on pins and needles, the five winners (chosen at random) are:
Pamela Hargraves
Ed Sigmund
Debbie Leee Collins-Lay
Debra Smith
Heidi L. Lyda

Congratulations to all!
Winners: please contact me at karen.cantwell@yahoo.com with your mailing address and t-shirt size: Adult S, M, L, or XL.
And if you didn’t win this time, remember to keep checking, as there will be more fun contests in the future.
As the year comes to a close, I want to give my very deepest heartfelt thanks to the many fans who read and enjoy the books, who spread the word to their friends and family, who send me kind emails and Facebook posts, who leave wonderful reviews, and who join me here. Your warm support keeps me writing every day. I can never say it enough: Barbara Marr fans are THE BEST!!!
Have a Spectacular New Year to you and your loved ones!
Best wishes,

‘Tis the Night Before Christmas…

Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘Tis the Night Before Christmas…

It’s almost here!!!
I hope you join me at author Tonya Kappes’ blog for a Barbara Marr twist on the Christmas classic poem, in ‘Tis the Night Before Christmas. 

It’s a short and fun read that will hopefully give you a holiday giggle and put you in a festive mood. And if you don’t already own Saturday Night Cleaver, you can enter to win one! CLICK HERE for transport to Tonya’s wonderful blog and a poem that hopefully tickles your funny bone.

Then I will see everyone on New Year’s Day when I post some really fun announcements about my books to be released in 2013!

And if you haven’t voted in the T-shirt poll – you still have time. To everyone, have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Best wishes, Karen