Brenda Wallace is here!


Today I have a wonderful friend and author hanging out on the ranch. We both tend to be talkers so this post is a bit longer than I normally post- but it’s worth it to read all the way to the end.                                                Brenda Wallace and I met after I returned to Oklahoma and joined the local RWA group where she was already a member.  We’ve both been sitting quietly on the side lines, watching fellow Outlaws report sale after sale. Now we both are celebrating our own books LOUDLY! Say a big hi to the fabulous author of her indie-published mystery-thriller Brilliant Prey.

Hey Calisa. Thank you so much for welcoming me here to Pen of the Dreamer. I love your inviting colors and decor. Speaking of dreamer, it feels like a dream to be on the blog of a fellow Outlaw. It was only a few months ago that we were both just dreaming about our books, and now they’re for real. You even get to hold yours on your birthday! And, yes folks, Calisa is just as nice in real life.

Glad you like the ranch, Brenda. I did it all by myself (yep- a shameless boast). And I do feel I’m dreaming these days with the release of HOME on a foreseeable horizon… You’re so sweet to say such nice things (and she’s really just as nice, too!). Thank you for coming today. Let’s get to know you a bit better.

Why write what you write?

I first intended to write a romantic comedy, and I will some day. I am required to read so many psychiatric and psychological reports in my day job, that some of the darkness pours out into my books. Someone who is looking for a cozy romance probably wouldn’t enjoy my novels and that’s understandable. My writing does contain very strong romantic elements because I think most stories without romance fall flat. I do tread light throughout my books and end on the upbeat, but so far, I haven’t written a lighthearted romantic comedy. I sure will tell everyone about it when I do.

Keep us posted on that comedy. Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes I get ideas from dreams or half-awake stupors. One night I got the underlying story for most of a book that way. I bought an intriguing Astronomy course from the Teaching Company, which I watched a couple of times while walking on the treadmill. That’s where I got the idea for the atmospheric green flash and some of the clues that occur in Brilliant Prey. Anything that makes my heart beat fast, I throw into my books. When we were shopping at Sam’s Club, I saw a strange Ripley’s Believe It or Not book that I bought. I found some odd heart-jolting stuff in there that stoked my imagination and wound up in my book. I’m blessed to enjoy twenty-three years of happily-married domestic bliss, but I was single long enough to remember the various weirdoes out there, so the scary types always provide fuel for my villains. I’m kind of an adrenaline junky, who now prefers my drama in books, so I read or write that kind of roller coaster stuff. Actually, I enjoy reading just about anything that’s well written.

You and me, both! What is the hardest part for you to write?

The villain’s perspective is definitely the hardest for me to write. You can’t write a three-dimensional villain unless you get inside their head, and that can be an extremely creepy place to be. I don’t like spending much time there, but force myself to do it; otherwise my books wouldn’t be worth reading.

Villains are sort of creepy aren’t they? Makes me think of Silence of the Lamb. *shivers* What has your experience with indie publishing been like?

I’ve barely gotten started, but it’s been surprisingly positive. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to spend $15 to try putting Brilliant Prey into the Indie Book Blowout over the Labor Day weekend, and, wow; that really boosted visibility and sales. I’ve gotten kind of misty that some of my favorite authors of all time have also liked and praised Brilliant Prey. That feels pretty unreal to me. It’s like having a rock star tell you that they like your music. Authors and readers are generally a very nice group of people to hang out with, that’s for sure.

That’s wonderful, Brenda. Congrats on the morale boost of authorship praises your book. Do you recommend this form of publication for anyone?

We’re all individuals, so Indie isn’t for everyone. I’ve been through so many new inexperienced managers at my long-time day job, that it feels nice to retain control of my own work. But, publishing is changing so fast that I recommend all authors stay flexible and open to all possibilities. I’m just totally excited that authors have so many options now. John Locke just penned a deal where he kept his ebook rights, yet is publishing print books with Simon and Schuster. How cool is that? If an author decides to go Indie, I think it smart to study and follow the Indie trailblazers like J.A. Konrath, Scott Nicholson, Zoe Winters and such. Get an editor and a great cover. Some folks will come up with new ways to carve out their own niche, I’m sure.

I gotta tell you I love your cover. Can you share an excerpt of Brilliant Prey with us?

My pleasure!


One word bled through the folded page when Lauren pulled it from the envelope. “Mensa,” she murmured. She had always believed that a person testing in the top two percent of intelligence scores was a genius. Now she didn’t.

“Well, go ahead and open it,” her sister, Angie, said, stomping a high-heeled boot. Red clay slopped off the ornately tooled leather and onto Lauren’s white bamboo floor.

Lauren cocked her head, twisting a strand of hair into a painful rope when the anticipated “Welcome” message did not appear. Those Mensans did say she passed after all, but maybe they’d made a clerical error. Beneath the MENSA letterhead lay a series of dark random dots.

“What is it? Yuck.” Angie leaned a wooly head in front of the letter, blocking her view.

“I don’t know.” Lauren moved the document back into her line of sight. The scattered blotches were a strange reddish-sepia tone. She shook her head. If she didn’t know better, she would think these drops were…“Dried blood?”

Angie pushed closer, reached out toward the page, and then yanked her hand back without touching it.

Using an index finger, Lauren smudged one orb the size of a dried pea. It cracked. She rubbed the tainted hand over her blue jeans, and then turned the page over for an explanation. Six hangmen with X’s for eyes had been drawn there using the same fluid.

Above the hangmen game, a spidery script read SIX GUESSES EACH. A short word blank was associated with each stick-figure man. In the last word blank, the number 131,313 was scratched in needle-thin print, filling in the blanks with the odd rusty ink.

“I’m good at hangman, you know,” Angie said, whipping a pen out of her purse with a magician’s finesse.

“Right. I know.”

On a piece of junk mail lying on the kitchen table, Lauren jotted their hangmen solutions one by one above the number. The words came too easily: “hated lit set un I’m 131,313.” The hair prickled across her skin, feeling like the legs of a scrambling scorpion. Rubbing her arms, she felt the answer lurking.

Angie’s bronze face blanched. “Oh no. It’s about the Devil.”

“We’ll see.” Grasping the paper, Lauren held it next to the Tuscan globe that hung above her dinette. She detected something in the ginger hues. A watermark. Squinting, she muttered, “Georgia Pacific.” She gazed out her condo’s bay window at the rolling postal truck, wondering whether the document might hold a message of significance. “Let’s try the computer.”

The scent of holiday cinnamon welcomed her into a polished oak-filled office. She’d thrown a Christmas centerpiece in there, trying to make the place feel homey.

“Look.” Angie pointed as they walked in. The computer paper box was labeled “Georgia Pacific.”

“Maybe the hangman solutions are a palindrome.” Lauren pulled out a blank sheet, lay it on the computer desk, and began writing the numbers and letters in backward sequence. The words ‘set, un and I’m’ became ‘minutes.’ “That works.” She read the reverse phrase ‘313131 minutes ‘til detah.’ ‘Detah?’ An anagram in a palindrome? She glanced at her sister. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing? 313,131 minutes ‘til death?”

“Call the police,” Angie said, her pupils spreading in shining cobalt pools.

Lauren massaged her forehead. “No. I bet it’s related to that Mensa murder mystery event they’re holding at the Crescent Moon Inn in several months.”

“Maybe. If you don’t call the police, I will. I don’t think I’m overreacting just because of

“No. It might just be another type of test.” Could there be an organization coiled within the organization for those of even higher intellect? Wasn’t there a 99.9 percent order? Lauren didn’t think she could make it into yet another level. It was a fluke that she made it in at all. They just happened to ask questions that she could answer on the actual Mensa test. Having practiced some Mensa mini-tests online, she nailed some and flunked others. She belonged in Densa, not Mensa.

Glancing at the computer clock, she noticed that a minute had passed since she solved the palindrome. Another minute closer to death. Maybe it would be considered inappropriate, but she decided to risk taking a copy of the document with her to the MensaOK welcome meeting. She whirled the chair around to face her sister. “I

“Careful. There’s something shiny on the front there,” Angie said, pointing yet staying clear of the page.

Turning the paper over, Lauren angled the dotted front of the sheet beneath the bright office light. She could see some faint shimmering lines radiating from a central point, creating a two-dimensional dandelion. The paper dented inward with each jab of her finger. Gold glittered within the ridges of her fingertip, resembling a sparkling eye shadow. “Why would anyone put eye shadow on a Mensa challenge?” She tried to push away the knotted dread. “I’m going to try something.”

She photocopied the face of the sheet, then traced dot-to-dot. Lauren felt hopeful when one-dot series yielded an “M.” But as she wrote a “7,” she suspected that a person could find these same letters and numbers in a pepper spill. She considered chromosomal patterns, but that didn’t fit. Equations? Nothing fit.

Genetics wasn’t her forte. Mathematics wasn’t her forte. The Mensans would eventually discover that she didn’t have a forte. Well, now she had the time and money to augment her education, although higher learning had failed her…and her husband. What a pair they’d been…a couple of overeducated idiots presuming to lecture others on the inner workings of the mind.

“Well, you look like you’re going to be all right,” Angie said, rubbing her temple. “This is just giving me a headache. I came by because it’s the one-year anniversary of, well, you know. I just can’t believe he did what he did on your birthday. I just—” She pressed her hand to her mouth as if to staunch the flow of words.

“Uh-huh. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get so engrossed. Probably need to get home to your family.”

Angie whipped out a fire truck red cell phone and stared at it. “Yep. They’re wondering where I am. Don’t worry. Go ahead with your puzzle. You don’t need to walk me to the door. But, please call me if you need me.” She trotted from the office. “Oh. And happy birthday,” she called out as the front door slammed.

There will be nothing happy about my birthday…evermore, as her friend, Poe, would say. Stooping, Lauren picked up the envelope that had dropped out of her own back pocket. She studied the return address, but the impersonal Mensa address failed to provide any information.

The postmark revealed that the letter had been mailed two days before from Falls Church, Virginia. Images of foliage collaged against quaint cottages stirred peaceful memories of a visit to Arlington, Virginia, seven years earlier. She and Romy were so in tune then. Was that to be the peak of her life? Change channels. Nothing like reminding herself for the 365th time that it was time to move on.

Shifting her stance, she flicked at the corner of the postage stamp. It looked and felt like a typicalU.S.flag postage stamp, rigid enough to require a salute. Flipping over the envelope, she used a manicured fingernail and peeled a soiled curl of sticky tape off the back seal. Was it double sealed or re-sealed?

“Wait,” she muttered. The envelope bulged in the middle like a flattened fortune cookie, the bump revealing a small opaque square remaining within. How had she missed that?

Leaning forward, Lauren realized why she had chosen not to see it. Same size. Same shape. Her pale trembling fingers unfolded the hand-written message.


I realize that this is devastating to you at the moment, but I assure you that this is the preferable choice.

Lauren gasped. “Oh no.” This could not be happening again. The same note. The handwriting. Written on the same damned song sheet. Gloomy Sunday. It was his. Her body felt like it was filling with thick, wet concrete. She clutched the edge of the desk and steadied herself. Missing her chair, she sat down hard on the floor. She returned to the resurrected death note.

The fault is solely mine. The only explanation I can provide to you is that the deaths are mounting. I am not the murderer, but I am guilty nonetheless.

All of my patients will require a new therapist and I encourage you to consider this very rewarding possibility for your future.

I led a satisfactory life. I am completely lucid and go in peace. Now run next door and discuss this matter with Weldon. He will understand how to appropriately word the Certificate of Death so that my royalties remain uninterrupted. These and the retirement funds should leave you and the coming child comfortable. Immediately destroy this note.

With deepest affection, Romy

Lauren whispered, “I did, Romy. I did destroy this note. One year ago today.”


If you think Brilliant Prey is a book you want to check out, buy it here:


Barnes and Noble:

Brenda loves to hear from readers so drop her a note at her website:     My website:

Thanks for visiting folks. Please be sure to comment ‘Hey’ to Brenda before you leave.


About Calisa Rhose

I'm a mother of three daughters and wife to a wonderful man of 35+ years. I'm also an avid seamstress, polymer clay artisan and die-hard crafter, always coming up with things to make with, and for, my six granddaughters and two grandsons. Check out my craft site when you have a moment. I'm also a small online business owner of Okie fLips on Etsy and Poshmark (eBay/Merkari coming soon), and I'm a published author of sensual romance. I write about stubborn men and women who don't take no for an answer, and there's always that golden HEA. Cowboys and first responders are my favorite contemporary heroes to write about. My light paranormal heroes are strong men ready to protect their women--not that they need protecting, since they are capable of caring for themselves.

Posted on 09/08/2011, in Welcome. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. Hi Ciara. I know what you mean. I love to joke and laugh so I imagine that my books surprise anyone who knows me. The darkness in my work surprises me, too. I found your website and see that you have a book coming out in 20 days, LOVE’S LONG SHADOWS with a subtitle Battle for Souls. Sounds very intriguing. I followed you on Twitter, too. I’m trying to find out more about all the nice people who come to Calisa’s ranch and about their books or stories if they write. I really appreciate your stopping by. And thank you, too, Calisa, for being such a great friend. 🙂


  2. I applaud people who write comedy. I’m an upbeat gal in person but darkness tends to find its way into my stories. Like you, Calisa, I always end on an high. 🙂 I’ll go check out your book now. 🙂


  3. Thanks Brenda. Any info is always welcome!


  4. I just wanted to add for those who are interested that it looks like the 99 cent network might be the better site to watch for information about the next Indie Blowout which they’re saying will probably be in December. The 99 cent network is a related sister site of the IndieBookCollective. This is the 99 cent network site for anyone who is interested in the next Indie blowout:


  5. Hello, Irene! I got up this morning thinking about you because I haven’t gotten to chat with you as much on Twitter and decided I would send you a Tweet to see how you’ve been. So this is a very pleasant surprise. (Irene is a writer who lives in Greece so she sent me some virtual Kalamata olives and I sent her a virtual fresh blackberry cobbler). You’ve always been fun and helpful to me, too, Irene, and were the very first person to enter my book launch contest. I’m looking forward to your first launch. Thank you so much for dropping in. I’ll also say “hi” on Twitter. And thank you again, Calisa. You have a wonderful blog.


  6. Hi Brenda and Hi Calisa.

    Brenda is one of the first three people I met on Twitter and she’s been always helpful & assisting. I am already in possession of “Brilliant Prey”, though I haven’t finished it yet. An original title and a very good cover. I won’t say anything about the book yet, until I finish it :D. But about the excerpt above, which I’ve already read, I agree with Alyson Reuben’s comment, it makes you want to read more.

    Very nice interview 🙂


  7. Hey, Calisa. I’ll be sure to check back by again, but I wanted to be sure to thank you so much for having me over at your lovely ranch. You have such a great group of people here and it was fun meeting them all. I’ve also been looking around at your beautiful colors and getting ideas for decorating tips so I can have my blog all fixed up for your HOME guest visit on January 27th. I’m looking forward to your book launch and to reading HOME. 🙂


    • Thank you so much for letting me share in your release party Brenda! I’ll be sure to bring my Outlaw rose to add to your new decor when I visit in January. Two roses are always prettier than one. 🙂 I can’t wait!

      If anyone is curious to know where all I’ll be through my blog tour I have a partial list in the Blogging News tab at the top of my site and to the right of this page.


  8. Debra St. John might beat me to it, but it looks like she writes award-winning books over at Wild Rose. I copy and pasted this from her website at Her debut release, “This Time for Always” is a Champagne Rose and Rosebud bestseller at The Wild Rose Press. “Wild Wedding Weekend” and “This Can’t Be Love” are available now. “A Christmas to Remember” will be her fourth release from TWRP.


  9. Hi Debra St. John. First, I think you have a cool name. What books do you write at Wild Rose?


  10. Hi Brenda and Calisa,

    Great interview, ladies. I have several friends doing the Indie publishing thing and it’s working out great for them. Right now I don’t have the time to devote to it, so I am more than happy to remain at my small press (The Wild Rose Press) which is fabulous. So, I agree, authors need to find what works for them, and always keep their options open!


  11. Is that you, Cousin Caroline, lol? 😉 I think it’s fun to meet new-to-me authors and particularly friends of Calisa’s. It’s great to meet you, Caroline.


  12. Caroline Clemmons

    BRILLIANT PREY has a fairly scary cover that sets the tone for what you’ve described. Glad to meet a new-to-me author and friend of Calisa’s. I’m from Texas, but related to probably half of Oklahoma. LOL Best of luck with your writing career.


  13. Thanks for the link, Brenda. I’ll check it out. Mostly, thanks for your very kind words about my books. 🙂 I’m thrilled you like them.


  14. Thanks Alicia. I’m excited!


  15. I automatically assume that everyone already knows who Alicia Dean is, but she wrote two of my favorite books DEATH NOTICE and HEART OF THE WITCH. I’m looking forward to reading HOME by Calisa Rhose, myself. I bet Diana Layne will want to check out the http://www.indiebookcollective site, too.


  16. Hi Brenda and Calisa,

    I just wanted to pop in and say congrats on the sales, Brenda. I truly enjoyed your book and wish you lots of success! I should have gotten in on the Indie Blowout, sounds like a good thing. I didn’t know about it but hope they’ll have another. Calisa, looking forward to the release of HOME. So happy to see my fellow outlaws succeed. Kudos to you both on the blog…very good post.


    • Hey Alicia! Thank you so much for dropping by! I’m still all gushy that you liked my book. That was the very first Indie Blowout and it cost $15 to try it and I have to admit that I had my doubts that I’d see much results. Had I known how great it would be, I would have been spreading the news. Check out the website because they’re now planning a December blowout called the 12 days of Christmas.


  17. Slurp. Yep. That’s working. Looking forward to tonight.


  18. I’m just glad your third try worked, Brenda. Anytime you have an issue just yell/facebook me and I’ll eventually toodle over to check it out. Have a refil on that tall cold one and tonight we’ll break out the wine. 😉


  19. Yay! My third computer is working. Computers can sense stress levels and if you freak out too much they will shut down altogether. But, I’m relaxed and happy now here at the ranch 🙂 Thanks for handing me that cool drink and calming me down, Calisa.


  20. Good luck, Brenda, I hope to be joining the indie-pub ranks soon!


  21. Great blog, ladies! You inspire me to greatness!


  22. Thanks for supporting a wonderful author everyone. That is a perfect hook, isn’t it? I’m sure Brenda will be in as soon as she can to say hello. Ya’ll are the BEST!


  23. That hooked me in! Great interview.


  24. Great interview, Calisa and Brenda! And, wow, the excerpt ended with a fantastic hook! Makes me want to read more. As for the cover… well, all I can say is it raises goose bumps on my arms… and that’s a compliment, believe me.

    Congrats on realizing your dream! Wishing you the very best of luck 🙂

    ~ Alyson


    • Thank you, Alyson! I love the cover, too, and I love goosebumps! I tried my best to end every chapter with a hook because that’s what I love to read. Renee Barratt of The Cover Counts did the cover and she blew me away!


  25. Hi Brenda (and Calisa!)!! The book sounds great, big fan of mysteries.


    • Hey, Kirstina! I’m a huge mystery fan, myself. It was (mostly) fun to write Brilliant Prey, too. Thank you for coming by!


    • Hi Kristina Knight. I was scrambling so fast to respond to comments, that I was such a dufus not to find, that I misspelled your cool name. I hope this reply doesn’t post three times because it didn’t show up for me before. My computer has sensed my stress level and is responding accordingly.


    • Hey Kristina Knight. I was scrambling around to respond to comments (that I was such a dufus not to find) that I misspelled your cool name. I think getting on the third computer in the house is helping my later comments show up, too. Whew! I wish I’d been born a geek.


  26. Congrats on your release Brenda! Great excerpt. I’m a big fan of mysteries and thrillers. Adding it to my TBR list.


    • Thank you, Gale! I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t see the comment button and see that people were commenting. I was looking in the wrong place! I thought everyone was tired of hearing from me. I’m excited that this looked like your kind of book. I hope you enjoy it!


  27. Welcome Brenda! Thank you so much for visiting the ranch today. Everyone grab a coffee and danish, or another scrumptious dish and let’s chat.


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