Friday, June 30, 2017

Welcome to Our Newest Release!

We're so excited to share about Betty Thomason Owen's second book of her Kinsman Redeemer series! SUTTER'S LANDING is a visit to a simpler, more gentle time where neighbors went out of their way to help you, and love expanded like the blossoms of a rose.

Here's the short version: 

Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep.

In early spring of 1955, Annabelle Cross and her daughter-in-law, Connie have nearly made it through the first winter on their own. Then the skies open up as West Tennessee and much of the south endures one of the worst floods in history. As many of their neighbors endure losses due to the flooding, Annabelle and Connie sit tight on dry ground.

As spring gives way to summer, Annabelle begins to dread Connie’s upcoming marriage and removal to Sutter’s Landing. Though she’s happy to note the growing affection between Alton Wade and her daughter-in-law, their marriage means Annabelle will be on her own for the first time in her life.

Connie’s doubts increase when Alton’s bigoted brother Jensen uses every opportunity to drive a wedge between them. Is she doing the right thing? Did she move too quickly? Unexpected summer visitors and anticipation of a new neighbor provide diversion and open possibilities for both Annabelle and Connie.

Enjoy this preview:

Chapter One
April 8, 1955
Trenton, Tennessee

Connie Cross sat straight up in bed. What was that sound? Slowly, her vision adjusted to the semidarkness of her room. Outside, but close—too close. A gunshot? She slipped out of bed, donned her robe and tiptoed through the next room where her mother-in-law Annabelle lay. A soft snore told her the woman still slept.

Quiet as possible, Connie opened the back door and stood looking through the screen. Chilled air curled around her ankles and sent a shiver up her spine. She pushed the screen door open. Outside, on the small back porch, she stood for a moment to get her bearings. A thick, white fog enveloped the surrounding area. She wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and peered into the mist.

One of the hens broke into a loud cackle, which wasn’t unusual, though a bit early in the morning for such a racket. Connie was just about to retreat to the warmth of her bed when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She squinted in that direction, listening. Was someone approaching the house? An odd noise, like an animal snuffling, was the only sound. Her scalp prickled. She trembled, though not because of the cold. The sound moved closer.

Gradually, a shape emerged, advancing through the mist. Before she could make out what it was, there came a sharp whistle. Her back straightened as her nerves uncoiled. She recognized that whistle. The thing halted. Connie stepped forward. “Samson, is that you?”

The dog whined, and gave a soft yip. He trotted closer, nose to the ground, tail at attention.

A smile warming her insides, Connie peered into the mist. “Alton?” Their nearest neighbor, Alton Wade, was also her fiancĂ©, though they hadn’t publicly announced it yet. A moment later, she made out his lanky frame, moving toward her.

“Samson, sit,” he said.

The dog sat.

Alton stopped below the porch, too far away for her to make out the face beneath the brim of his hat. Dressed in a loose jacket, he held a disjointed shotgun in the crook of his arm. “Did I wake you?” His voice was low, as though he was not yet fully awake.

Keenly aware of her state of undress, Connie kept both arms crossed over the front of her blue chenille robe as she crept closer to the edge of the porch. “You did. Was that a shot I heard?”

“Yes, it was. A fox was about to have herself a morning snack on Miss Annabelle’s chickens.”

Connie caught her breath. “Did you kill it?”

“Of course, I did.”

Connie could hear the prideful grin on his face. She gave him an answering one. “Of course, you did.”

Behind her, the screen door inched open and Momma spoke. “Killed what?”

Connie turned to look at her. “Alton killed a fox about to get your chickens.”

“Land sakes. Well, thank you kindly, son. Will you come in and warm yourself?”

He gave a low chuckle as he shifted his stance. “No, thank you, Miss Annabelle. I’ve got to get back home and see to my animals. I’ll take that vixen’s carcass with me, if you don’t mind.”

She giggled. “Not in the least. You take it with my blessing.”

Alton hesitated another moment, while his gaze burned into Connie’s. He lifted one hand to tug the brim of his hat. “Good morning, ladies. I’ll be back around later on.”

“Good morning,” Connie whispered. I love you, her heart sang, as a thrill chased up her spine.

Momma held the door for her. “You best get in here before you catch your death.”

Death. As she turned toward the door, Connie glanced over her shoulder to the place where Alton had disappeared into the mist. By now, he’d be back at the chicken coop, gathering his prey. Would death steal him away from her, too? She sucked in a jagged breath as the screen door eased shut behind her. She sincerely hoped not. But thoughts like these were a daily struggle. When did one overcome such a fear?

It was less than a year since she and Momma had been widowed. Ray Cross and both his sons had drowned in a boating accident. Three lives snuffed out in a moment’s time. She rubbed her arms against another tremor that shook to the very core of her being. Forcing those thoughts aside, she moved purposefully toward her bedroom, to make the bed and get dressed before little Joseph David awoke. She hoped he’d sleep for another hour or so, since he’d been awake so much last night.

As she straightened the bedclothes, Momma shuffled in from the kitchen. “I’ve gotta get a peek at my grandbaby.” She bent over the cradle for a moment. “Good morning, precious.” Before leaving, she pressed a kiss against Connie’s cheek. “Coffee’s on.”

Connie hoped she’d brewed it good and strong. Perhaps the grayness of the morning had set her on edge, she wasn’t sure, but she’d need to pull herself up and out of this melancholy soon. She glanced at the snoozing baby and breathed a soft prayer.

She and Alton had sat together at church for the first time this past Sunday. Up until that time, they’d been discreetly separated by his mother and Momma. The rumor mill that had been a mere trickle, let loose like a flood. The looks cast her way after the service told her she was not a popular choice for this eligible bachelor.

Alton’s older brother Jensen’s gaze was the most brutal of all. She could easily understand why he was such a success as a lawyer. His wife, who had never said two words to Connie, looked down her regal nose before turning her back, feigning an interest in the altar bouquet.

Connie blew out a breath in an effort to cleanse her mind of the troubling memories. The only expression she should be remembering was the one on Alton’s face. She smiled at that thought. His eyes had taken possession of hers, searched the depths, and left her weak in the knees. In church. She’d scurried down the aisle to join Momma who’d been busy showing off her precious bundle. Joseph David was the delight of the senior ladies’ Sunday School class these days.

Momma was certainly humming a happy tune when Connie entered the kitchen a few minutes later. The sweet, spicy smell of cinnamon rolls filled the air. Connie breathed it in. “Oh, my, what’s the occasion?” Momma usually saved cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, or once in a while on Easter Sunday.

“Does it have to be an occasion?” She cast a grin over her shoulder as she drew out a pan of the fragrant pastries. “I just had a craving for cinnamon, and this is what came of it.”

“I’m not complaining,” Connie assured her. She crossed to the dish shelf, grabbed a cup and poured herself some coffee. While Momma iced the rolls, Connie stirred the eggs. Their hens weren’t laying yet, so Mrs. Byrd, their neighbor across the road, kept them well supplied in return for a bit of help. Connie had learned to gather the eggs, clean out the chicken coop, milk the cows, and feed the horses. She enjoyed most of it, and Momma didn’t mind watching the baby. It was a lot easier than picking cotton. She hoped her cotton-picking days were over.

Momma set a heaping plate of rolls in the middle of the table. “I expect to see Riley one of these mornings. He did promise to plow my garden.”

Connie ladled a serving of scrambled eggs onto their plates. She set the skillet back on the stove. “Maybe he expects Alton to do it.”

“Now why would he expect that? Y’all haven’t announced anything.” She settled into her chair and waited for Connie to join her.

“I imagine by now, it’s probably all over town.”

Momma giggled. “Only that he’s interested. Interest doesn’t obligate a man to take care of a widow’s chores. Riley’s one of my oldest friends. Besides, he promised.”

Joseph David decided now might be a good time to wake. He let out a squall just as someone knocked on the front door.

Momma frowned as she pushed away from the table. “You get the baby, I’ll get the door.”

Curiosity drove Connie to peek out the window on the way to the bedroom. Why had she done that? A black sedan with an emblem on the door sat in the drive. A man in a dark suit stood on the porch. Not again. Please, God, not again.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


We're so excited to launch the first book of this new dystopian series! Kristen Hogrefe merges the action and adventure of the post-apocalypse with the richness of a historical. Who would believe these two could come together so perfectly?

But the setting is only the first best thing about this book. Portia Abernathy is a most unexpected heroine. Physically impaired and petite, this blonde has one goal: to arrange her brother's release from the satellite.

Here's the short version: 

A Revisionary rewrites the rules.
A Rogue breaks them.
Which one is she?

Nineteen-year-old Portia Abernathy plans to earn a Dome seat and rewrite the Codex rules to rescue her exiled brother. Her journey demands answers from the past civilization, but uncovering the truth means breaking the rules she set out to rewrite.
Where will the world be in 2149? If citizens forget their past, they will be lost in an identity crisis. That's exactly the state of the American Socialists United (ASU). This dystopian story opens in Cube 1519, a ghetto where the only use for obsolete cell phones is to throw them like rocks at mongrels. Portia and her father survive like many other citizens, with no electricity or technology and no expectation for a better life.

Yet Portia remembers her brother Darius—before he was taken from her. Now that's she's graduated, she determines to get him back. She thinks earning a Dome seat as a Revisionary candidate will be her ticket to rewriting the Codex and reversing his sentence. However, when she receives her draft and arrives at the Crystal Globe University for training, she discovers the world is very different outside her cube and that prisoners like Darius aren't the only ones trapped by the system.

Written for young adults, THE REVISIONARY offers a suspenseful plot, flashbacks to America's Revolutionary era, and rediscovery of the founding values needed to rebuild Portia's unraveling world. "In school, teens hear that if they don't learn from history's lessons, they're destined to repeat them," author Kristen Hogrefe says. "Portia lives in a world where leaders wield ignorance to control citizens. Only when Portia sets out to rescue her brother does she realize the lie she's been living and determines to break free."

Blockbuster novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver popularized the dystopian YA genre. THE REVISIONARY builds a dystopia of a different kind—one that looks backward to find wisdom to move forward to offer an underlying message of heritage and hope.

Preview the First Chapter

Saturday, 9.5.2149
Chrysoprase, Cube 1519

Some people are born with defects like mine. Others are damaged at the hand of another.
Lying flat on a frayed mat, I tug one leg and then the next to my stomach to stretch the tension in my back. Dawn streaks through the cracked pane above me, brightening the dull gray outline of my graduation uniform to navy blue.
I stand and tip-toe across the loft room’s cold wood floor. Pulling up the hem of my sack pajamas, I strap on my thigh holster and then try not to trip while climbing down the ladder. Whoever owned the rag dress before me must have been a good foot taller.
Dad is asleep on his mattress, which takes up half the room downstairs. The other half is our kitchen and wooden table.
We’ve called this converted barn home ever since our ration reduction ten years ago. Ever since the Court convicted Darius and our family shrank to two.
I start the fire and add water to the cast iron tea kettle. Dad says there are rumors of electricity being restored in some of the squares for the first time in decades. For me, a hearth works just as well.
With the kettle set to heat, I slip out back to use the shower stall, pausing only to grab a towel and the wishbone from last night’s wild turkey.
I’ve no sooner shut the door than the growling begins—and I double check the latch. It will hold. I reach for the lye soap and twist open the rusty metal spigot. The cold water drizzles onto my shoulders and dances down my skin. I shiver deliciously. This must be the feeling that makes little sparrows cavort in puddles.
My mind wakes up by spinning lines of verse. I work them out by singing a low alto tune, the best I can manage early in the morning.
my friend or foe?
If foe, then off you go.
If friend, then don’t bite me but a
The growling resumes, louder this time. Either the alley mongrel is extra hungry today, or another mutt has crossed its territory. I shut off the tap, mop the water off my skin with a threadbare towel, and rub dry my pixie-cut hair.
Then, I redress and reach for my Taser. Dad insisted I apply for a permit to carry one when medical pulled me out of a physical education course on account of my back. He figured that if I can’t run from danger, I should at least be able to aim at it. The process took a few years and required a security elective class, but the trade-off was worth the hassle.
There are some things in life no one can outrun.
I press my body tightly against the stall frame and peak through a fractured panel. A mutt with matted gray hair and one good eye paws at the door. I relax and re-holster my Taser. I won’t need it today. Our alley mongrel is testy but harmless.
I crack open the door and toss the wishbone into the woods. The mongrel bounds after it, and I hurry to the kitchen where my tea kettle puffs steam and whistles like the boy who used to live next door. The simple fragrance of tea and oatmeal wakes Dad, and he joins me at the table. The bench groans under his weight. His mechanical work and years of physical labor have built his naturally thick frame to the size of an ox.
Well, at least compared to me. I’m barely five-feet tall. My mom was small too, or so Dad tells me.
We sip our tea in silence. I won’t waste words with another argument.
Dad doesn’t want the draft board to call my name. I do. Today, one of us will get our way.
Only the hearth heard those long debates between us. Its crackling tongue, like an old gossip, provokes my memory.
I was a child of nine, unable to sleep in a room bereaved of a brother. Can’t we bring Darius back?”
Sweetheart, we can’t change the ruling. Only the Court could if someone amended the satellite sentencing laws.”
Who could do that?”
His eyes had betrayed the hopelessness of such a reversal, but for my sake, he offered one possibility, one he later regretted. Why, that would be our Dome Revisionaries. They interpret our Codex, or law book, and decide how to apply or improve it.”
Dad never gambled his little girl would pursue training as a Revisionary candidate, but that’s exactly what I did. My scores in school climbed to the top of the charts. I used my accomplishments in language arts, Revisionary theory, debate, and logic as leverage to persuade my professors to enroll me in a Revisionary undergrad program I finished two years early.
But my achievements frightened Dad. Do you want the draft board to notice you?” He demanded.
Yes, I do.”
The draft is what Darius defied. I may never see you again if you are drafted.”
“We’ll never see Darius again if I don’t try.”
Darius may already be dead.”
But he might still be alive.”
There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.”
There’s the chance that I might. You said yourself it’s the only way to change the rules and bring Darius back.”
I’ll find another way.”
There isn’t one.”
Dad gave in, but something changed. Many nights and weekends, he never came home. When he did, he looked like soot and smelled like earth. I bandaged everything from cuts to broken fingers, but nothing kept him from leaving again the next night.
Once, I tried to follow him, but he caught me. My gentle father transformed into a ferociously protective papa bear. His warning and whipping sent my feet scrambling home as fast as my sore backside could manage.
After that, I never asked where he went, and he never offered to explain.
When Dad was home in the evening, he invented a game called “Forget and Remember” to help me focus on what we had, not on what we had lost. In the firelight of our small hearth, I also spun my verses. He especially liked the ones that included a riddle for him to solve. Those dusk hours are some of my happiest memories.
To most, the man across the table from me is nothing but an old broken Tooler with knobby fingers and dirty nails. To me, he is everything left that’s kind and lovely in the world.
The hearth’s chattering fades.
You’d better hurry up and get dressed.” Dad stands and starts for the door. You don’t want to miss the train.”
Where are you going?”
He puts on his leathery hat. I have something to do first.”
My lip trembles in disappointment. I had hoped he would walk with me today. Promise you’ll meet me at the station.”
His hand slides off the door latch and reaches for my chin. Of course, sweetheart.” Dad pauses and takes a deep breath. Even if attendance weren’t mandatory, I wouldn’t miss the train. My brave girl’s quest is a fool’s errand, but I’m proud of her spirit.”
I search his deep brown eyes, so much like Darius’s. Are we not all fools for those we love?”
He smiles and is gone.

Get Your Copy and "Meet" the Author!

THE REVISIONARY is now available in print and e-book at Amazon. Get your copy HERE! But that's not all.

In just over an hour, (7PM Central) Kristen will chat with our WIP executive editor, Marji Laine Clubine. Get the inside story on this book and the dystopian genre, in general! Here's the link to Blogtalk Radio, the "Along Came a Writer" Network!