Playing With Pigment – My First Foray Into Homemade Paints

OMG, I did it! I made paint!

Way to lead with the climax, right? 😊 Screw suspense, I’m too excited to build to it.

This used to be a brick in my sidewalk.

Here’s the thing – ever since stumbling upon Nick Neddo’s book on making organic art supplies, I’ve been itching to try making homemade paint. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t wait for the half-pans I ordered to get here, which is why it’s good to be a repurposing, hording fiend. I made do with bottle tops instead. Hoorah!

Hold up a sec, I’m getting ahead of myself – I blame it on the excitement. Deep breathes, Robin, deep breathes. Ok, that’s better. Now let me walk you through the miracle.

A crumbling sidewalk brick had me wondering what would happen if I took a hammer to it. Would it fight back and resist? Would it crumble like my red wine will power? Could I do something with this? As in make paint? Low and behold, it was super soft and gave way immediately into powder which I ground even finer with a mortar and pestle. So, of course, I had to make paint. When life hands you pigment, put it to use!

Can you believe this pigment was once clay in the ground that became a brick in a house built in the 1800s that eventually was torn down and ended up as a part of my garden sidewalk for about 15 years before it finally crumbled into pieces? And I’m going to paint with it – YAY!

First off, I boiled some water for a cup of tea and to dissolve the gum arabic which acts as a binder for the pigment so it doesn’t all settle to the bottom of whatever you store your paint in. I bought the gum arabic for under eight dollars online in a food grade powder form which is handy because I don’t have to pound it or sift it or otherwise prep it prior to use. The preferred ratio is one-part gum to three-parts water so I measured it out by the tablespoon into a recycled spice jar, first the powder, then the water.

I use a piece of paper as a powder funnel. It works!

You really do need the water to be boiling hot when you dissolve the gum. I actually poured my cup of tea first, then measured out the gum into the jar, added the water and it had already cooled down enough that I ended up with clumps even after about five minutes of stirring. By the way, it’s really, really sticky. Be warned.

Next I stuck it in the microwave to bring it back up to temp, turned it on for 30 seconds, walked my tea over to the kitchen table and returned with five seconds left only to discover the entire contents had boiled over and out of the jar.


Learning. It’s a process.

A little clumpy….

Second bottle, second try, better luck. This time I boiled the water and immediately added it to the gum powder. I still ended up with a few clumps but I watched it like a hawk in the microwave and only ran it for ten seconds at a time. Three seconds into my second go around it rose to the top of the jar, I stopped the microwave, removed the bottle (with a hot pad because, guess what, it was hot) and already I was happier with the results. The liquid was much clearer with no remaining clumps. Yay!

Next, I added raw, organic honey which binds with the water to help increase the flow of your paint. The recommended ratio is one-part honey to four parts liquid. I stirred it vigorously and ended up with a honey colored medium that smelled delicious.

Much more clear and now includes the honey

I should have added a few drops of either thyme oil or clove oil as a preservative after the honey, but, unfortunately, I forgot this step – I blame the excitement – so I’m going to monitor the paint I created without it to see how long it lasts. I can justify my lack of precision here by calling it an experiment so, once again, lemonade will be made from lemons.

At this point I added my brick dust pigment to a plastic dish (recycled from an Evol Truffle Mac and Cheese dinner, yummy even if overprocessed), and it was time to start adding the liquid and stir.

Slowly I poured the honey-scented medium into the dusty pigment. Actually, it was that wonderful scent of honey that reminded me I should have added the thyme or clove oil and I immediately started looking for them in my soap supplies to no avail. Bummer.

This is so exciting!!! BTW, trial and error works best here. A bit at a time is best.

Stirring with a pallet knife, I poured and scraped, mixing the pigment in slowly until I had the smooth consistency of a cream soup and then I poured it into my bottle cap. Miracle of miracles, I had just enough from the two brick chunks I pounded to fill one cap. A slur of grainy wash remained stuck to the dish and it made me realize that I do need to invest in a glass pallet and a muller. A muller is a mushroom shaped glass tool used to finely grind and mix the pigment with the binding medium. If I had one of those, I’m sure I could get that brick dust into even finer particles that will suspend better in the paint. But they aren’t cheap….

Someone commented on my Instagram picture of this and said she thought it was a cup of coffee. And now who among us doesn’t want a latte?

Regardless, I didn’t mind the rather grainy, organic look to the paint, and I absolutely loved the color. A quick brush test gave some satisfying results. Now it’s sitting on the table in my art studio slowly drying out under a north-facing window. Hopefully it won’t crack, but that remains to be seen.

I had so much fun mixing that little pan of paint I raided my soap-making supplies for some French green clay and gave it a try too. The result was a fairly warm, pleasant gray tone, but the clay powder proved to be much more absorbent and took twice the amount of liquid plus a lot more stirring to get it smooth. It’s also fairly transparent on paper.

I’m currently contemplating a mono-chromatic study using only my brick dust paint, I just don’t know what subject yet. Any thoughts?

As for the brick dust paint, I’d say it has more in common with gauche than watercolor, but I’m ok with that. It’s paint, I made it, and that’s the point. Plus, the color reminds me of ancient Indian cave paintings and I really LOVE that!

Yes, I only have two small bottle caps of paint that may turn rancid in a week (I’ll keep you posted) and only one of them came from local pigment I crushed myself, but my organic art journey has taken a positive step forward while tying me to the past at the same time. For today, it’s enough, and I call that a win.

Happy painting!

  • Robin

Painting Dempsey

I spent a bit of time at the easel last night and painted a quick study of our little rescued kitten, Dempsey. He sat in the morning light streaming through the open kitchen door yesterday morning, watching the shadows of leaves moving across the floor, and I knew immediately it would make a cute painting if only I could get a good picture. Fortunately, he finally stopped attacking the shadows and sat for a moment, perhaps contemplating why he wasn’t having any luck catching them. I took a quick snap and painted this in about an hour last night. It’s only about four inches by six inches, but I’m finding I enjoy painting itty bitty works of art. They go fast and don’t require much in the way of paint. I also managed to use only four colors – burnt sienna, burnt umber, yellow ocher, and lamp black – plus a bit of zinc white and only two brushes.

Dempsey Watching Shadows

I’m not quite happy with his face yet and some of the stripes on his tail are too thick and blocky so I’ll probably play around with it again tonight, plus the leaves need more definition and his shadow is a different hue than that of the leaves. So work remains to be done before I’m satisfied, but it’s getting there.

I’ve also realized that one of my issues with painting is getting a good picture of the results. This little portrait is still wet so It’s very reflective and getting a picture that truly does justice to the colors and texture is hard. That white spec center left? It’s a thick brush stroke and the light is catching the ridge of it. No, it’s doesn’t show up white on the actual painting, but it bugs me in this picture.

Which brings me to another research project – studying how to properly photograph my work. I’m going to have to get better at it if I’m going to enter any shows or apply for more juried art residencies – all big goals of mine. But that’s also one of the many things I love about this hobby – it offers endless possibilities for discovery if only I’m willing to apply myself. Which I am.

Now, excuse me, please. I have to go work on my kitten.

– Robin

Blessed Are The Broken Bricks And Branches

A brick broke in my sidewalk and I’m ecstatic. Granted, crumbling landscape features aren’t usually a cause for celebration, but I’m on the hunt for all things pigmented and organic so – yay! – lemons will be turned into lemonade. More specifically, brick chucks will be crushed into dust.


Crazy? Possibly, but let me explain.

Like most artists, I “collect” art supplies – paints, brushes, mediums, canvas, pens, pencils, pastels, etc. Horde is more like it, but when driven to create on a near constant basis, the last thing I want is to lose focus over an empty tube of burnt umber. So, imagine my glee when I stumbled upon Nick Neddo’s book, The Organic Artist. This sweet little gem walks one through the very real prospect of making art supplies at home. Now, thanks to Nick, I’m whittling pointy ends on sticks – and occasionally my fingers –  to use as dip pens, I’m soaking walnut husks in water for ink, I’m collecting broken branches to turn into charcoal, I’m watching YouTube videos on sourcing my own clays for itty bitty half pans to hold watercolors, and I’m only just getting started.

Regarding the brick chunks, they will be ground into as fine a powder as possible for use as pigment in homemade paints. I’m still torn whether to start with watercolors or oil-based paint, but with any luck another brick will break and I’ll have pigment coming out of my ears, meaning, I won’t have to choose.

As fun as that prospect is, what truly excites me about this project is that I’m not just making art supplies, I’m collecting memories. That broken brick which I plan to smash into powder? It came from a weekend excursion to a local farm nearly two decades ago when my children were young and we picked through a massive pile of freebies that once stood tall as a late 19th century farmhouse. Long since abandoned, the brick home was bulldozed to the ground to make room for yet more corn at which point the owner then listed the brick for free in the local newspaper back with communities had things like local papers that local people used to advertise local opportunities on a daily basis.

But I digress.

During that weekend trip for a future free sidewalk, the elderly owner told us the brick in the house had been cast on the spot as it was being built. In those long-ago times, Menards, Lowes, and Home Depot were few and far between – ok, nonexistent – so making and baking your own brick was a necessity. In short, it means my well-worn sidewalk is built from local clay.

Now, over 170 years later, one of those bricks is crumbling to the ground, and I’m going to turn its powdered remnants into paint born from pigment that once housed a family through all of its joys and sorrows after being pulled from the ground by hard-working hands when our nation was still healing from the Civil War.

I can’t wait.

And there-in lies the thrill. Painting called to me as a child as a way to capture feelings I couldn’t yet put into words as well as memories I didn’t want to forget. Now, I have a way to capture even more memory and even greater feeling through the discovery of materials that come with a story more extensive than I ordered it from Amazon. Two weekends ago, I scoured a beach near and dear to my heart for seagull feathers to use as quills. On a bookcase in my art studio rests a small sandwich baggie of black magnetite-tinted sands collected from a family camping trip. Beside it sits another filled with reddish black hematite sands from the same trip. Each holds a memory of family and friends and a time when we could be children together again on a warm beach in the hot sun.

I’m entranced with the idea of creating new memories with these new materials. They’re already blessed with stories. What more could an artist ask?

A Time-Traveling Tour De Force From Elizabeth Chatsworth

I am licking my lips over the delicious confection that is Ten Minutes Past Teatime by Elizabeth Chatsworth. Mind you, I’m not talking about anything so tenuous and fluffy as whipped cream or cotton candy confections. No, Elizabeth’s short story tour de force is a big slab of hot apple pie with a chunk of cheddar cheese on the side – spicy, gooey, and not too sweet like the pie, sharp, funky, and memorable like the cheese.

Author Elizabeth Chatsworth
I have never looked that cool in my life!

I told you it was delicious.

Where to start, where to start, and how to explain. I’m almost at a loss.

First, there’s intelligent humor – I snorted out loud at her suffragette comment – it’s worth a read just for that one line alone. There’s action in the form of unexpected crashes and violent clashes; there’s a moody, almost primitive Irish atmosphere; there’s time travel from one colorful point in the past to an even more colorful point in the way-back past; there are twists and turns that I can’t describe for fear of giving away the story; and there are Vikings! Vikings who also happen to be pirates! Led by a kick-ass, sword-wielding shield maiden named Alfhild.

Whew! Eat your heart out, Steven Spielberg.

BTW, Have I only just mentioned the strong women characters? It’s dripping with them, strong women characters who take no crap from anyone. Who wear clothes I want to wear to Burning Man some day. Who know what they want and go out and get it. Yes!

Think I can pull this off in the desert?

The fact that it’s all seasoned with satisfying hints of girl-on-girl action rolled into an adventure that gushes steampunk is just icing on the cake. Or ice cream on the pie if we want to stick with my current analogy.

Whatever, right? But, seriously, it’s a fun-filled, page-turning rollick of a read.

Again, I can’t go into details because one, it’s a short story and two, trust me, you want to read it for yourself, but what I can share is that you’ll wish it were a full-blown novel. That gets made into a blockbuster movie. Or possibly fleshed out into a made-for-TV series. I’d watch that any day of the week.

As for her characters, Elizabeth has a gift for dialogue – not unexpected for a woman whose day job is voice-over actor. Her main character, Minerva, a Victorian spinster scientist, had me in stitches and I couldn’t help but mentally read everything in an English accent. As I’ve said, the touches of humor are brilliant, and the ending, well, it’s…it’s…OMG, I want to tell you so bad, but won’t. Read it and get back to me so we can bond over it, okay? Okay.

My only complaint is that it’s too short. I wanted more, more, more, more. I’ve never been one to put on the brakes when it comes to dessert or good books, and that includes well-written short stories like Ten Minutes Past Teatime. I hope there’s a sequel. Or, better yet, I hope I stumble upon a time machine that lets me flit back to when she started writing this juicy nugget of fun so I can whisper into her ear, “Keep going, girlfriend. This is a keeper.”

I can totally see Alfhild rocking this look. While stabbing people.

Ten Minutes Past Teatime can be found in the Amazon best-seller, When To Now: A Time Travel Anthology in addition as a separate, stand-alone read. Hers was my first selection in this collection – I bought the anthology – and I hope to devour more stories over the coming weekend. But if you find yourself stuck at your child’s dance class or soccer practice, pull out your Kindle, dig in, and watch your time fly by too.

For a taste of what’s to come from Elizabeth Chatsworth, follow the link below and listen in on her voice-over excerpt of her novel, The Brass Queen.


Last, but certainly not least, click below for an Amazon purchase link for Ten Minutes Past Teatime. You can thank me later. Or sooner if you get to that time machine before I do. 😉

Gumbo By Moonlight

Reprinted from and shared with permission from the glorious foodie blog, Eat, Darling, Eat

Eat, Darling, Eat – Mothers and Daughters: A Collection of Stories and Recipes.

September 30, 2019

by Robin Winzenread Fritz

Only a handful of memories survive my earliest childhood days in 1960s Indiana: a pink farmhouse hidden among fields of corn; discovering Easter baskets still nestled in our parents’ bedroom closet before mass; the enormous flower garden where surely fairies hid. But brightest among these memories are the times my sister and I spent in the kitchen with our rather creative mom, still so young herself, in her mid-20s. Alone for hours on end with only her two preschool daughters, she let her imagination provide the stimulation, and it was no more readily apparent than in our meals.

Mom looking fly; me playing with our puppy’s ear while my sister, Renee, smiles for the camera.

Whether borne from sips of cooking sherry stolen while Dad worked or residual brain damage from sniffing gas fumes at her grandfather’s farm when she was a child, my wickedly inventive mother channeled her unique approach to life into every midday meal, uplifting it to adventure status. As she ladled steaming soup into our bowls, she regaled us with her evening exploits hunting the elusive Gumbo by moonlight, with our pet cat, Tigger Tom, leading the way, pulling her forward in his hay-rope harness. Together they wandered the farmhouse grounds and neighboring fields for our food, searching for their prey.

“What’s this?” I would ask, pointing to the green fleshy circles of something floating in the broth along with chicken bits, pushing it with my spoon.

“Innards,” she’d reply with a wink. “Cross sections actually,” she’d clarify, even as she tossed the empty cans of Campbell’s Chicken and Gumbo soup into the trash. “Colons, to be exact.”

Our tummies full, we’d roam the yard, searching through the flowers, poking sticks into holes, bracing ourselves for an onslaught of attacking Gumbo. As the afternoon sun wore down our resolve, we’d follow our noses into the kitchen, chasing a warm, spicy smell that made our mouths water. Once more confined to our booster seats around the speckled Formica kitchen table (with just a hint of chemical smell wafting out from, most likely, industrial glue), we’d be treated to glasses of chilled milk and Mom’s next tour de force. Warm, chewy cookies spotted with something dark and equally toothy were placed before us, and we’d dive in, stuffing our mouths as her story began.

“Tigger Tom and I worked all night to catch those,” she’d say, grinning. “Fast, they are, and ornery too. A few came at me. I swear, it gets more and more difficult to make a batch of mole-asses cookies. I can hardly catch the moles.” Chuckling, she’d brush flour from her apron and slip the container of what I now know to be raisins back into the pantry. “Eat up, girls. Rigor mortis sets in when they cool down.”

At night I would lie in bed, listening for the sounds of Mom and Tigger Tom gearing up to do battle in the great outdoors. Silently I’d pray, hoping they’d catch more moles, wondering why she only used the Gumbo’s colons, knowing full well I could never ask her about her meatloaf.

Robin Winzenread Fritz is Adjunct Lecturer and Internship Coordinator, Divisions of Business and Liberal Arts, at Indiana University in Columbus. She can be found at, on Twitter and Instagram. Her mother, age 77, is alive and well and still cooking.

Mom’s Mole-Asses Cookies

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. shortening
1/2 c. dark molasses
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T. baking soda
1/2 c. water
5 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. salt
1/2 c. raisins

In large bowl, mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and eggs until well blended.
In small bowl, dissolve baking soda in water; stir into molasses mixture.
Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Lightly grease cookie sheet.
Scoop about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie, and drop onto cookie sheet.
Place cookies about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until light brown.
Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
Eat warm or, if icing with vanilla frosting, let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
(This is an old Betty Crocker recipe that my mother adapted years ago. The original recipe doesn’t call for raisins, and Mom never added the frosting, but feel free to make them your own.)

An Interview with Kelley Griffin

After reveling in her nail-biting story, I had the opportunity to discuss BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE with Author Kelley Griffin. Read on for more insight into her fun and twisty read.

Author Kelley Griffin

Kelley, I love the combination of romance and thriller. Have you always been drawn to that combination in a story? Essentially, what drew you to that combination?

Yes! I love a story that keeps me on the edge of my seat and gives me all the feels of a romance. Stories that take me to new places and remind me of home are also my favorite!

The peek behind the scenes at a movie being made is fascinating. It felt very real. Where did you gain your inside knowledge?

Honestly, I did a little research on what it would take to become a costume designer. What tools did she need and what kind of education were the primary targets. One of the cut scenes had her making the blue silk dress she wore on the TN. Riverboat cruise. I could envision her making her own clothes from a very early age.

Throughout the book, I kept picturing Charlie as a Chris Hemsworth with a southern accent rather than an Aussie one. What is it about southern boys that tugs at our hearts? And is there a personal preference for you?

Chris Hemsworth…. them eyes… am I right?

Hold on…fanning myself for a second.

Aren’t we all…

YES! He’s perfect as Charlie. Being married to a southern gentleman, and raising our five sons in the south, I have to say that most southern boys are taught manners and have a respect for women that I find attractive. I love Charlie’s struggle between fitting in around the Hollywood scene and working on his parent’s farm at home.

Is there someone special who inspired Charlie or did he just come to life as you thought about this story?

Charlie began as a character in another book! When that minor character was booted, I kept dreaming of him. He deserved his own story. I see a cross between a Hemsworth and Chris Pine. Mischievous and about to get into some trouble like Chris Pine, but thoughtful and sexy like Hemsworth.

Oh look, it’s a Chris sandwich! (Chris Pine on the right, Chris Hemsworth on the left)

Oh, I love Chris Pine too!

Okay, the character of Jason in your story is both terrifying and believable. Did you have to dig deep to write those scenes?

Not really. Does that make me crazy? I hope not!! I believe that every bad guy should not only be able to justify his actions but should believe that what he’s doing is for the greater good. He should believe he’s the hero! In Jason’s defense, something clicked inside him when his mama chose drugs and bad stuff over her little boy. He wanted to punish her but couldn’t. So he sought out girls who favored her to punish. And when he sees Charlie with the one girl who’d stopped long enough to have a conversation with him, he snapped.

Let’s talk now about the craft of creating a novel. When it comes to writing, are you a plotter or a pantser? And, do you have a writing process?

Pantster to the rapture!! Although I must admit that writing a series has been a bit tougher, so I have some bullet points as to where the series is going. NO OUTLINES though!! My writing process is to get up at 4:45, write from 5-6 then get ready, get kids up and head off to work and school. Saturday mornings I get a few hours in and when I’m on a deadline, I’ll sequester myself away and write like mad! Mornings are my time, though.

How long did it take you to finish writing Binding Circumstances?

Lord. Felt like forever! 😊 I began writing Binding during Nanowrimo in 2016. Finished about ¾ of it, then left it hanging for a while. Several months later I finished it, then shelved it while finishing another one. When I finished it, I knew it needed editing, but I also knew it was a powerful story.

How much research goes into your writing?

I research locations for sure so they’re authentic. Most of my novels, so far, have either been grounded in California and East Tennessee or they’ve come back to one or both of these areas. I was born in Pomona and currently reside in Knoxville. So Tennesseans especially will always find landmarks they know.

Stunning, isn’t it?

I love Tennessee too – it’s gorgeous. My sweetie has family there.

Next question, and we’re all dying to hear the answer to this one. What’s next on your writing list? Can you give us a teaser for your next book?

Oh yes!! Entangling, Book One of the Kirin Lane Series is coming up soon! We hope to release it in November of 2019. You’ll love Kirin. She’s a spectacular heroin. It’s another nail biter of a romantic suspense, but filled with funny spots and heart tugs. Here’s the back cover copy:

Can she find her mother’s killer? Or will he find her first?

When Kirin Lane’s father dies, it means nothing to her. Why should it? It’s been thirty years since he abandoned her after her mother’s death. But when her house is ransacked and sinister men pursue her, Kirin is forced to look to the only thing he left her for answers—a tattered Marine Corps field manual.

Inside, she discovers clues that could unlock the mystery surrounding her mother’s murder, if only she can follow the cryptic information. She finds an ally in the charming and mysterious Sam Neal, who both infuriates and awakens feelings she can’t resist. But can she trust him?

Sam Neal is determined not to fall for Kirin. He can’t. It’s a clause in his contract, and he never breaks a promise. But, he knows too much about her. Her strength and sexy pigheadedness drive him crazy in the best of ways. Suddenly, Sam’s thinking less about obligations and more about allowing a certain woman inside his world.

But with nothing as it appears and her life on the line, can Kirin untangle what really happened to her mother thirty years ago?

Check out Champagne Book Group for more on Kelley’s books and other exciting reads.

Or will the killer’s next victim be her?

OMG, that sounds amazing!!! Is it November yet?

Back to the craft. Have you attended any writing residencies and, if so, which is your favorite OR which is on your must-do list?

I have yet to attend any writing residencies, but I’ve been to several conferences and am a member of the East Tennessee Creative Writing Association. I’m currently mentoring a Sci-Fi writer from my hometown. I love answering questions and my new favorite thing (since this book launched) is going to Book Club events and talking about the book. It’s SO much fun!!

Okay, personal questions time. What books are on your bedside table?

TOO MANY!!:) I have about five Nora Roberts books to read, plus about 90% of the “In Death” series to finish, Where the Crawdad Sings is staring at me, and a few non-fiction books my mama has given me 😊

That wasn’t really a fair question, was it. As writers, we have to vault over the piles to even get to the bedside table, don’t we? *fist bump*. Okay, next question – what’s your favorite vacation destination?

Camping! Anywhere there is a chair to sit and read, a warm fire and no laundry to do! Camping is my jam. The kids ride bikes, swim and explore. I take long walks with the hubby and get up early to write and watch the sunrise. I’d like to explore further from home like the Grand Canyon or the Redwood Forest in CA.

I’m a camper too! Every year I still spend a week camping in a state park with about 80 of my closest family and friends. We kind of take over the park. In a non-threatening away, of course.

Last question. It’s a Saturday. You’ve just polished off your latest manuscript. Your mother is monopolizing your children. The husband is on a business trip. It’s raining. What do you do?

LORD… sleep. Then, I’d probably finish one of the many home improvement projects I’ve started. Oh and I’d READ. Yep. I’d read. Forget the rest. 😊

Thank you so much for reading and for your support!!

You’re welcome – I’m happy to share! BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE is a great, thrilling read. And thank you, Kelley, for sharing your creativity and stories, and for this interview. I can’t wait to dive into Entangling! Until then, keep writing and reading.

  • Robin

Renee Wildes’ A Guardian’s Destiny – Excerpt

If you’re a fan of Renee Wildes’ Guardian series – and I know you are – you’re in for a treat – Book Five, A Guardian’s Destiny, is out and ready to be devoured. To bring you up to speed on this latest tasty treat, read on for a brief synopsis and – best of all – an excerpt!

Synopsis – A Guardian’s Destiny

Guardians of Light Book 5

On what should have been Verdeen’s proudest day, she is blocked from advanced warrior training because no war mare chooses to bond with her. Burning with humiliation, she accepts a lesser assignment to the Isle of Ice, serving as bodyguard to human riever, Daq Aryk. 

Verdeen’s never paid much attention to men, so focused was she on her training. But she quickly realizes hieing off into a distant wilderness with Aryk is a bad idea. He makes her lose all focus and perspective.

Aryk faces a difficult task: molding six warring clans into a peaceful whole. He’s got nothing against women warriors, but Verdeen is young and inexperienced, her beauty a potentially fatal distraction. She’s a shield-maiden, not a bedmate. But the way she melts at his every touch erodes all his good intentions…and sense.

One kiss unleashes the kind of feverish desire that should occur only once in a lifetime—with a mate. But as their quest takes ever more dangerous twists and turns, their bond could be the one thing that unites a nation. Or make Aryk’s worst nightmare a blood-soaked reality.

Warning:Contains fire and ice, ever-gratuitous sex and violence, sword play and self-play, spying and lying, noble intentions and betrayal. In other words, a rollicking good roll in the proverbial hay.

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A Guardian’s Destiny – An EXCERPT

Verdeen paced through the lush gardens, letting the honey scent of night-blooming moonflowers soothe her. Their waxy ivory petals glowed in the lights. Thank the Lady Goddess everyone remained inside. The splashing of the wishing fountain attracted her, and she emerged into a small clearing lit by pink mage light. She wasn’t the first to venture there.

She froze at the intimidating figure staring into the shadowy ripples of water. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was here—”

“Don’t go.” Aryk turned from the fountain and held out a sun-bronzed hand. “Stay.”

She eyed his hand, wary of his touch. “Daq Aryk, what are you doing out here?”

“Just Aryk. I longed for quiet.” He raked his hand through his hair. “I felt on display.”

She could relate to both parts of his statement, and unexpected sympathy welled for the stranger. As if of its own volition, her body glided closer to him. His unique, multi-faceted, hazel eyes captured her gaze. Their intensity made her falter. “Why have you come here to Poshnari-Unai, my city?”

“To set my destiny in motion.” His lips quirked at her puzzlement. “Stovak nos briel.”

She cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

“Destiny awaits. Sounds grand and mysterious, hai?” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “’Tisn’t. I’ve a political problem back home. Cianan believes Loren could help.”

Humans followed the Destiny Hand? “He’s very good at solving most problems.”

Everyone’s but mine.

“Your eyes are red. You’ve been weeping. Why?” He frowned, but she read genuine concern in his eyes. “Today you triumphed over everyone. I’ve never seen aught like it. You were amazing.”

“Really?” She cursed the tremor in her voice, the eager approval-seeking obvious even to herself.

His smile softened the harsh planes of his face and deepened the crinkles around his eyes, making him seem younger and less imposing. “Hai. I’ve seen many a warrior in my lifetime. Believe me when I say you’re gifted, Kyra. Smart, strong, and beautiful. Poetry in motion.”

Something melted within her at the compliment. There was the word again, kyra, his husky tone nigh making it an endearment.

“The one thing I wanted most in this world slipped through my fingers this afternoon. A chance to be selected as a ranger trainee, to further my studies. It didn’t happen.” A tear fell. She froze as he brushed it away.

“There are many paths to greatness. A warrior’s greatest strength is the scope of his vision. You showed vision and judgment today, but take care lest your focus cause you to miss your true path. A warrior must above all be adaptable to change. The one thing that never changes is the fact everything changes.”

He held out his hand again, and she took it. Big mistake. His thick, scarred fingers caressed hers. made her tingle in places not even remotely attached to her hand. She entwined her fingers with his to still them and bit her lip at the zing of awareness as his thumb brushed the sensitive skin of her inner wrist.

“Cease,” she whispered.

“Cease what?” His voice dropped to a smooth, dark seduction of lethal proportions. “This?” His fingers teased hers with long, light strokes. “Or this?” He rubbed gentle circles over her pulse, which hammered at his touch.

She should have extricated herself but didn’t move. Couldn’t move. “This isn’t proper.”

Some rebellious part of her didn’t care.

“Do you always do what’s proper, Kyra?”

“What’s kyra mean?”

“’Tis a term for a woman warrior.”

“We also have such a term, ancient and seldom used. Vertenya. Few exist in our world to carry such a title.”

Per Cianan, there were now but two—Queen Dara and herself.

Aryk slid closer, the heat from his body curling around her. “I answered your question. Now you answer mine.”

What was his question? If only she’d focused on his words instead of on the rich smoky warmth of his voice. Like crème rija pudding with honeyed brandy. Sheer decadence to make her melt.

“Do you always do what’s proper?”

Female in the military? It didn’t get any less proper. Just ask her absent parents. Acourse, holding hands with a royal guest in a moonlit garden wasn’t proper, either. Yet here she stood with her hand in his, close enough for his subtle musky scent to push the fragrance of the flowers from her awareness. All she could think of was how she wanted to move closer yet. Dazed, she shook her head.

Heat flared in his changeable eyes. “They said this is a wishing fountain. If you make a wish and toss in a pebble, your wish comes true.”

“’Tis true. A legend as old as this city itself. There are faeries with the power to grant it, if the wish is personal and comes from the heart.”

Aryk uncurled his free hand, revealed a stone. With a flick, he tossed it over her shoulder. Verdeen heard the splash. “Guess what I wished for.”

“Your destiny would be fulfilled?”

Stovak nos briel. Nay, what I wished for is more personal and out of my hands.”


Their gazes clashed then locked. His eyes narrowed, darkened. “A kiss freely given by you.”

What? Her heart skipped a beat. Why waste the power of a wish on such a frivolous thing?

He must have read the disbelief on her face. “’Tis a rare gift. Tonight in this magical place, all things seem possible.”

They did. They truly did. She should be angry or offended at his outrageous request. She should return to the party. Today had been emotional chaos, leaving her raw, vulnerable in its wake. Tonight, heart ruled mind. She nibbled her lower lip, undecided. Why? Mayhap ’twas the moonlight, the seclusion of the garden setting. Mayhap ’twas his words, the understanding on his face. The heat in his eyes, the warmth of his hand.

Or mayhap Cianan was right. Mayhap the woman tired of the warrior having the say.

An Interview with Renee Wildes

Today I’m hosting a book tour for fellow Champagne Book Group author Renee Wildes and we’re chatting with her about her Guardian of Light series. Renee, what inspired you to write A Guardian’s Destiny?

Book One in Renee’s Guardians series

In Book 1, A Guardian’s Heart,the heroine Dara was assigned a lady’s maid named Verdeen. More than anything, Verdeen dreamt of entering the Warrior Academy and becoming a Ranger. So I wanted to do a book about her AFTER she graduated.

I’m very pro education. Unfortunately my coveted Warrior Academy scholarship fell through, but I love when young people have career aspirations. Let’s not talk about me and my unfulfilled dreams. Instead, can you tell us a little bit about the characters in A Guardian’s Destiny?

Verdeen (Heroine)—an elven vertenya (female warrior) whose dreams of becoming a Ranger are dashed when no war-mare chooses to partner with her after graduation. All she wants is to change the world like her idol, Queen Dara, did.

Aryk (Hero)—humandaq (ruling chieftain) on Isadorikja, the Isle of Ice, who dreams of uniting his six fractious clans into a peaceful united whole. When he brings his proposal to the outside world, he’s brought before Loren, High King of the Cymry, the Eastdawn Elves (Dara’s husband), who assigns Verdeen to him as a bodyguard/counselor (and spy).

I’m always up for elves. But seriously, though, how did you come up with the concept and characters for A Guardian’s Destiny?

Aryk’s people are known as rievers to the outside world (think Viking raiders), so I did a lot of research into the Spartans, the Vikings, and Iceland for cultures and setting. I wondered what would make a warrior want to hang up his sword, and came up with the idea of a vision he has about his son’s death by sword. The only way he can prevent it is to ensure Joro never picks one up, which means the children need other career options. And so a desire for peace and trade with other nations was born.

Tell us about your main characters—what makes them tick?

Verdeen is young and idealistic, but very single-minded about her life’s path, so when things don’t go as planned, she has no Plan B. She’s sacrificed everything to become a warrior, including her family (her parents disowned her when she quit the palace for the Academy). She had NO prior romantic experience with men, so her attraction to Aryk throws her for a loop.

Aryk faces open skepticism from every front to his plans for peace. Even his best friend Valkyn thinks he’s mad. When the elven king forces him to take on an unblooded cadet, he’s resentful and worried she’ll get herself killed. Romance was not on his original agenda, but he starts to wonder if a political alliance to Cymry, though marriage, might be possible—if they survive the coming unification battles.

By the way, I LOVE your book covers. The cover for Book Three, A Guardian Revealed is my favorite. Who designed them?

Book Three in the series – check out this cover art!

Carly Marino

They’re really stunning. You know what else would be stunning? A movie based on your series. If your book WAS made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

I based Verdeen on Miranda Otto’s portrayal of Eowyn in the LOTR films, and Aryk is based on Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Stelios in 300.

Oh, I love that. I’m a huge LOTR fan. Every fall when the weather turns wild, I re-read The Hobbit. I need a journey every now and then. Next question – how did you come up with name of this book?

It was originally entitled Riever’s Heart when it was published by Samhain. When Champagne Book Group picked up the whole series, we decided to retitle the books. Since the series is Guardians of Light, we put ‘Guardian’  is each of the titles. Since Aryk’s catch-phrase is “Stovak nos briel” (“Destiny Awaits”) I decided this one should be A Guardian’s Destiny. It’s especially appropriate b/c Verdeen is of two minds about what the elves call The Destiny Hand.

Thanks Renee! Next up, I share more information on Renee’s exciting Guardians of Light series.

It’s Winnie Wednesday!

Welcome to my reoccurring post that does nothing but pay homage to my unintentionally hilarious sidekick, Winnie the Bulldog. She’s short, she’s chubby, she drools in her sleep – and farts too – she’s my four-legged mini-me, my forever spirit animal and I love her to death. Say hello, everyone, to Ms. Winnifred Snuffleufagus Fritz the First.

Bullies know nothing about boundaries….
Winnie when I first got her. Her little face is more wrinkled, much like mine, but isn’t she a sweetie?

Held Hostage by Binding Circumstance

There are dust bunnies collecting in the corners of my kitchen, my laundry room smells funky, not fresh, and it’s a problem. Frankly, I blame Kelley Griffin.

Why, you ask? Because I made the mistake of diving into her novel, BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE, on Friday and, being unable to put it down, my weekend cleaning routine went to hell. Scrub the toilet, you say? Impossible! Kelley’s main character, Leslie, has questions that need answered about sexy Charlie right now and so do I, gosh darn it! Fold the laundry? Ha! Leslie’s stalker just made an appearance and I can’t leave our girl hanging out there alone, now can I? Seriously, had I stopped I’m sure she would have been a goner. I HAD to keep reading. For Leslie’s sake.

All kidding aside which, by the way, I’m not really kidding, BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE is hard to put down. It’s a real page turner, or a finger swiper if you read it on Kindle like I did. That said let me share a trigger warning. If you’ve ever been stalked or were the subject of violence, especially sexual violence, this may not be your cup of tea. Then again, it might – it’s handled in a fairly sensitive way, although it does get intense. Truth be told, the only time I DID put it down and walk away was for that very reason – intensity. When I read a book, I throw myself into it to the point that with this one, I needed a breather, even if it was just long enough to pretend to tackle the laundry.

In essence, it’s a nail bitter.

Okay, public service announcement over, let’s get to the heart of it, what I like to call the good stuff, and there’s a LOT of good stuff. To start, Kelley hooks you with a relationship-building romance dripping with suspense – which I won’t give away – but the hints at something sinister lurking in Leslie’s past will keep you guessing throughout the book. Plus, you’ll love her fragile inner strength, although if you’re a mother of a young twenty-something woman like I am, at times you’ll find yourself shouting, “Say something, for heaven’s sake!” Once you’re a mother, you’ll find yourself parenting everything whether it be stray dogs, fruit flies or fictional young people in books. It’s a thing. Don’t judge me.

As for Leslie’s love interest, upon reading the first description of Charlie, I couldn’t help picturing Chris Helmsworth. If that also happens to you when you read it, you’re welcome! Granted, it also helps that the mental image of him seductively sweaty and shirtless is forever burned upon my brain stem, but that’s not a bad thing and I certainly don’t mind. I DID mind Charlie’s initial pushiness, but it’s true to character, and it left room for his personal growth throughout the story. Characters need room to breathe, develop, and grow, and isn’t that part of the fun? Plus, as he pushed and she repelled, I got it. And, as their relationship evolved, I got that too. It works.

Did you honestly think I WOULDN”T include a shirtless picture of Chris?

Additionally, the premise is intriguing – a young costume designer is stalked by a psychopath while being pursued romantically by a Hollywood heartthrob (give me a sec…I’m picturing Chris Helmsworth shirtless again), and I loved the peek behind the scenes into the world of movie making. Anytime a book takes me into new and fresh experiences, it’s an added bonus that leaves me thrilled.

From a bump-and-grind perspective, Kelley’s novel is straight up sweet heat. If you’re here for sex, sex, and only sex, keep moving. BUT, if you enjoy the give and take of a building romance with a satisfying send off, you’ll love BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE just as much as I did.

One thing that didn’t quite read true, however, but which I’m willing to accept, was Leslie’s quick climb up the career ladder, only because it happens so fast and, having bitten and clawed my way through my own career, I only wish it had been that easy at times. As the main breadwinner for my family my entire adult life it’s been an uphill battle. That said, women with skills should be instantly rewarded for their talent so, in that regard, I applaud her advancement. Let the real world take note and catch up.

In closing, this is a fun, fast read that will have you gripping your tablet page after page. Her characters will delight you and frustrate you and captivate you and enrage you and all those other choice active verbs that make fictional characters so relatable. I hope you give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Author Kelley Griffin

BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE is available through Kelley’s website at You can also order it from her publisher, Champagne Book Group, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In my next post I’ll interview Kelley Griffin and we’ll talk about the making of BINDING CIRCUMSTANCE as well as her writing process plus I’ll get some insight into the woman behind the novel. Until then, keep reading!

– Robin Winzenread