Interview with Sara Walter-Ellwood

GamblingonaSecretTour (1)

Tell us about your current series.

The Colton Gamblers is basically a family saga sort of thing set in a small fictional Texas town of Colton that seems to have a sudden run on fraud, rustlings, murders, stalkers, and kidnappings. The books are all romantic suspense, some more heavily so then others. All the stories build on the one before it—however each book is written to be a standalone and have a different hero/heroine. The characters are somehow tied to the founding gamblers of Colton—the exceptions being the heroine in book 1 and the second hero in book 5 (but they are sister and brother). The “blurb” for the series is in foreword of Gambling On A Secret and on my website:

In 1865, three disillusioned first cousins return from the battlefields of the defeated South to find their home in East Texas a shambles. Determined to make a new start, they head west. In the cowboy town of Dallas, Texas, they decide to pool the few silver dollars they have between them and enter into a poker game. With their gamble, they win over 100,000 acres of good grassland in Central Texas. Over the next century and a half, their descendents build a fortune in cattle and oil, but as time goes by, greed erodes their family bond.

These are the stories of the eighth generation gambling on love and bringing back the bond of family…

Book One—Gambling On A Secret (January 7, 2013)
Book Two—Gambling On A Heart (tentative release of September 2013)
Book Three— Gambling On A Dream (my current WIP)
Book Four—Gambling On A Wish
Book Five—Gambling On A Song
Book Six—Gambling On A Lady

Due to the fact there are so many characters and family dynamics involved, I’ve created complete family trees for each of the three clans—The Cartwrights, The Blackwells and The Fergusons. They are posted on my website.

What is your next project and when will it be released?

Heartstrings is due out in April and also a contemporary Western. The hero is a sexy mega country music star and the heroine is a Native American registered nurse who made a terrible mistake when she married their mutual best friend to make sure her baby had a father. It is also set in a fictional town in Texas.

What is your typical day like?

I work full time, so I don’t start writing until after I get dinner on the table at 6 PM and the dishes done and spend some time with the family. By this time it’s 7:45 or so. I usually try to breeze through my emails while I’m making dinner, so that I can write for a few hours. I try to get to blogs and stuff like that before 11 PM, but some days I just can’t make the rounds. On the weekends, I usually spend one of the days doing laundry and cleaning the house and one day for family and writing.

Do you have critique partners?

Oh God yes! My two main CPs for Gambling On A Secret were D’Ann Lindum and Martha Ramirez. D’Ann has been amazing and a Godsend when we met by chance on one of the writer’s YahooGroups a few years ago. She’s taught me so much, not just about writing, but about the West. What I love about Martha is she and I don’t write in the same genres. She writes mostly sweet or YA and I write spicy contemporary and paranormal and would never think of writing YA. What she brings to a critique is seeing the story from different angles. I value both their opinions and wouldn’t be here without them.

gamblingonasecretsmcq_2Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

I don’t consider my road to publication to be either. I didn’t struggle to get published as long as some, but I had to work to get here. Both Gambling On A Secret and Heartstrings were rewritten so many times it’s not funny. But once I got it right, publication came quickly.

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.

“When a mysterious runaway-turned-heiress trusts a drunk ex-soldier to rebuild her ranch, an entire town is shaken to its core as more secrets than just hers are revealed.”

I came up with this in a high concept class taught by Lori Wilde last summer. It’s the same pitch I’d used on the blog that landed me my contract with Lyrical Press.

Tell us about your hero. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.

Special Forces Captain Dylan Quinn is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his last tour, his Delta Team was ambushed and received incredible losses. Dylan blames himself for the deaths of his guys, since he was their commander and his mind wasn’t in the game. Two days before the mission in support of Seal Team 6, he receives a Dear John letter from his wife of 10 years—she wants a divorce and is pregnant with another man’s baby. He has PTSD and is an alcoholic. But despite his military upbringing—his father is a general—all he ever wanted to be was a cowboy and own a ranch.

His greatest strength is his loyalty and honor. His weakness is not believing in himself.

Tell us about your heroine. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.

Charli Monroe is the heiress to a fortune, but she has a dark past. At age 15 she ran away from home and her verbally abusive grandfather. She ended up on the streets of Las Vegas where she found work as a stripper and prostitute to support her cocaine habit. Her abusive pimp was also her “husband” and controlled her by withholding the drugs she was so addicted to. After serving a year in jail for a crime she unknowingly helped him to commit—all by the time she’s aged 19, she goes home to her grandfather. He’s a changed man, and for the next few years, she learns about his ranch. But when he dies, she heads to Colton where she buys the dilapidated Blackwell Ranch. She’s a hard worker and determined to change her life around. And to do so, she plans to help young women like herself by eventually earning a social work degree and opening up her remodeled home to troubled teenage girls.

Her biggest strength is her big heart and need to help anyone who needs it. Her weakness is her need to hide the past instead of facing it which causes her to be blind to what his happening now.

Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?

Yes! I’m a member of the RWA and my local RWA Chapter. I also am on many a dozen or so YahooGroups. I’ve learned so much from all of them.

Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?

As cliché as it sounds, it’s also the most true statement out there—DON’T EVER GIVE UP. But what does this mean?
*Learn as much as you can about craft, writing and even the business. (I personally wish I’d spent more time learning the business end of things before I was published.)
*Network as much as possible because this will help you after you are published. Don’t think you don’t need a website or to blog or Facebook/Twitter before the contracts—you need to do this before.
*Take a good hard look at why you’re getting rejected. If you’ve moved from form/or no-letter-at-all rejections to helpful ones, consider what the editor/agent is telling you. If you have more than one or two letters that are telling you the same sort of things, chances are those are the things you need to fix.

When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?

Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.

Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.

When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?

CONTENT WARNING: Details abuse of a minor, drug abuse, alcoholism, swearing, spicy sex, murder.

COVER QUOTE: “Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!”
Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.
Ms. Brown also named Gambling On A Secret as one of her favorite romance reads in 2012 in the

    Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today


“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.

Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”

“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of his voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”

“Mr. Quinn, please.” She turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”

He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”

Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”

“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”

She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t sit right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.

“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. Whiskey tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”

She could protect herself. Dylan Quinn wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from him, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Quinn, I can handle this.”

She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”

“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going, unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”

Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word exterminator. “No, Mr. Quinn is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”

“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “It’s good to see you up among the living again.”

Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”

Upon hearing the jibe, Leon’s shoulders jerked in mid-stride.

Rattled by Leon’s attention and the snake fiasco, she turned on Dylan. “You aren’t off the hook. I want those snakes gone.”

“We’ll see.”

“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”

Sara Walter Ellwood is an award winning author whose novel Gambling On A Secret was named by bestselling author Carolyn Brown in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today as one of her favorite romances of 2012. Although Sara has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her stories. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for nearly 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia.

She also writes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.

Buy Links:
Lyrical Press:
Barnes and Noble:

Author links:

~One poster from every stop will win a Gambling On A Secret ebook
~One commenter from each stop will win a piece of custom jewelry.
(The winners of these two prizes will be announced the day after the tour stop.)

I also have 2 Grand Prizes!

~First Grand Prize is a SWAG PACK, including a signed copy of Carolyn Brown’s Just a Cowboy and His Baby. Also included is a copy of D’Ann Lindun’s Shot Through the Heart, a pen, a notebook, a horse themed mini calendar, a patriotic themed day planner, and more all tucked away in a reusable tote bag at the end of my blog tour.

~Second Grand Prize is a $10 Gift Card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you follow the tour and comment as often as possible, you increase your chances of winning!
(The winners of the Swag Pack and Gift Card will be announced on March 1, 2013.)
(Swag Pack is only eligible for US residents to win. The jewelry and gift card are eligible to US and Canada residents only. The ebook is eligible to anyone, unless prohibited by law.)

12 thoughts on “Interview with Sara Walter-Ellwood

  1. Great advice for a newbie writer Sara…and your elevator pitch is top notch…it has all the info to suck you in and make you curious to find out about your story!

    Congrats on your release!!

  2. You’ve got Mart and D’Ann as cps- good job – they’ll help make a great story greater –
    wow – you had to make family trees – quite involved. Don’t know how you “series” authors can do it.

  3. I love when authors say right away when they release the book if it is part of a series. I’m one of those people that seems to always pick up the second book before I find the first and it usually ruins the first book. But I do like the fact that these are standalone, but I don’t want to wait until September for the second one. I’m afraid i’m going to like this one too much and won’t be very patient for the next ones to come out.

  4. I love when authors say right away when they release the book if it is part of a series. I’m one of those people that seems to always pick up the second book before I find the first and it usually ruins the first book. But I do like the fact that these are standalone, but I don’t want to wait until September for the second one. I’m afraid i’m going to like this one too much and won’t be very patient for the next ones to come out.

  5. Thank you all for coming by!

    The winners are….
    For the ebook—Victoria Adams
    For the jewelry—Charlene A. Wilson

    Congratulations, Ladies!

    Remember everyone is still in the running for the grand prize!

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