“Round the Campfire” – Karen Nortman

“Round the Campfire” – Karen Nortman




The Traveler Trailer

Suzanne’s Note –  I met Karen on Facebook where I’ve met many of the authors I know! Her book covers intrigue me. I can imagine myself living in a vintage trailer, pulling a curtain aside to see what’s going on around me. Scroll down to read more about what makes this amazing lady tick!

Karen’s Bio from Amazon
After previous incarnations as a secondary social studies teacher (22 years) and a test developer (18 years), returned to her childhood dream of writing a novel. Bats and Bones, a cozy mystery, came out of numerous ’round the campfire’ discussions, making up answers to questions raised by the peephole glimpses one gets into the lives of fellow campers. Where did those people disappear to for the last two days? What kinds of bones are in this fire pit? Why is that woman wearing heels to the shower house?

Karen and her husband Butch originally tent camped when their children were young and switched to a travel trailer when sleeping on the ground lost its romantic adventure. They take frequent weekend jaunts with friends to parks in Iowa and surrounding states, plus occasional longer trips. Entertainment on these trips has ranged from geocaching and hiking/biking to barbecue contests, balloon fests, and buck skinners’ rendezvous. Frannie and Larry will no doubt check out some of these options on their future adventures.

Karen has three children and eight grandchildren. She also loves reading, gardening, and knitting, and can recite the 99 counties of Iowa in alphabetical order.

Karen’s Books from her Website

New In the Frannie Shoemaker Series!
No. 7: the space invader


A cozy/ thriller mystery! After Frannie and Larry and the Ferraros survive being snowbound and spend the rest of the holidays with family in Texas, they continue to New Mexico for some camping and sightseeing. But near Roswell, the journey jumps of the track when an escaped convict and a UFO cult cross their paths. How will they get out of this one?

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

 The Boxed Sets for Kindle


New editions of the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries are now available. The recipes and camping hints are included. An economical way to camp with Frannie!

Set 1 includes:
bats and bones

the blue coyote

peete and repeat


The second three Frannie adventures are also available in a boxed set for Kindle at a third off. The camping hints and recipes are not included but each book is there in its entirety.

the lady of the lake

to cache a killer

a campy christmas

The Time Travel Trailer series

The Time Travel Trailer


The 2015 Chanticleer Paranormal award winner in the Time Travel: Magic category and an IndieBRAG Medallion honoree! In a little side trip from Frannie and Larry’s adventures, I went farther afield with a time travel novel. While I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, time travel to the past has always fascinated me. I love the interplay between modern times and the past. This year I became more acquainted with people who restore vintage campers and thought what a great time portal one of those would be.

Lynne McBriar’s separation from her husband doesn’t help her relationship with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Dinah. If she can just get Dinah away with no distractions, maybe she can restore their former happy rapport. When Lynne has a chance to purchase a vintage travel trailer from an old friend, she jumps at it and begins to restore it to its original condition. But the first camping trip in the trailer holds an unexpected surprise. Lynne wants time alone with her daughter but doesn’t expect it to be in a different decade. Further remodeling and later trips bring more adventures than Lynne had bargained for, until she may lose her daughter for good.

The story also looks at our perceptions of our grandparents and the realities of the “good old days.” It’s not heavy sci-fi, but it was a fun ride for me.

Check out the book trailer:

Order The Time Travel Trailer

Trailer on the Fly


How many of us have wished at some time or other we could go back in time and change an action or a decision or just take back something that was said? But it is what it is. There is no rewind, reboot, delete key or any other trick to change the past, right?

Lynne McBriar can. She bought a 1937 camper that turned out to be a time portal. And when she meets a young woman who suffers from serious depression over the loss of a close friend ten years earlier, she has the power to do something about it. And there is no reason not to use that power.

In the process, Lynne meets the Sisters on the Fly, but wonders if it’s true that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Order Trailer on the Fly


Bats and Bones, The Blue Coyote, Peete and Repeat and The Lady of the Lake have all been selected as B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees. Their website is  BRAGMedallion.com and is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

No. 6: a campy christmas


A Holiday novella. When Frannie’s plans for Christmas with her children fall apart, the Shoemakers and Ferraros decide to spend Christmas in Texas with Larry and Jane Ann’s brother and then take a camping trip through the Southwest. But those plans are stopped cold when they hit a rogue ice storm in Missouri and they end up snowbound in a campground alone. Not Frannie’s dream for a wonderful Christmas, but events surpise her.  Includes recipes and winter camping tips.

Order a campy christmas

This is a fun, short Christmas novella. Two couples set off on holiday in their campers and get stranded in an ice storm at an empty campsite, or so they thought. Great read for a chilly, winter night, snuggled up by the fire.-Ms Loves to Read, Amazon

No. 1: bats and bones


Camping can be murder. Oh, sure, on the one hand there’s the stunning scenery, socializing with old friends and new acquaintances, amazing food cooked outside, and so on. But what if a dead body turns up on one of your hikes-for-fun-and fitness?

Frannie and Larry Shoemaker, retired baby boomers, are looking forward to a relaxing Fourth of July weekend with friends in beautiful Bat Cave State Park. They begin the weekend with a wonderful meal and some laughs over the antics of nearby novice campers. But when someone kills the campground host and Frannie’s group discovers the body, their favorite getaway becomes a quasi-prison, and the eccentricities often seen in a campground are viewed as suspicious behavior. A severe weather threat and the possibility that the murderer could be either a campground resident or an intruder from the outside compounds the danger. Frannie, while naturally curious, is warned off by her retired-cop husband, but still stumbles on information making her a target of the killer. At the same time, Frannie is working through the recent loss of her mother and an uncomfortable relationship with one of her own camping group.

Bats and Bones is an IndieBRAG Medallion honoree and is based on Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa.

Order bats and bones

“This is such fun to read–funny and suspenseful. The clever camping hints at the ends of the chapters add to the true-to-life sense of place. Reading this brought back many happy memories of camping with family–spiced up with a compelling mystery. It’s a great story!” Lizzie Wizard, Amazon

No. 2: the blue coyote


Frannie and Larry Shoemaker love taking their grandchildren, Sabet and Joe, camping with them. But at Bluffs State Park, Frannie finds herself worrying more than usual about their safety, and when another young girl disappears from the campground in broad daylight, her fears increase. The fun of a bike ride, a flea market, marshmallow guns, and a storyteller is quickly overshadowed. Accusations against Larry and her add to the cloud over their heads. Frannie begins to puzzle out the mystery: Are the itinerant road workers as much of a threat as Frannie thinks? What about the lone woman camper who also disappears? Or is the girl’s deadbeat dad behind it all?

The Blue Coyote is an IndieBRAG Medallion honoree and was a finalist in the Chanticleer 2013 CLUE awards. Bluffs State Park is loosely based on Ledges State Park in Iowa.


Order the blue coyote

“Frannie and Larry gassed up the truck, packed the camper and headed out with a couple grandkids for a quiet weekend with friends. Will their trip be uneventful? Oh, you hope not. A little girl riding a squeaky bike with training wheels up and down the state park trails that tweaks Larry’s nerves starts this mystery into motion (you too will want to ship Larry a can of DW40 for his next camping trip). Accusations, an abduction and a chase through a dark field spark a great story.” Mythbuster, Amazon

No. 3: peete and repeat


A biking and camping trip to southeastern Minnesota turns into double trouble for Frannie Shoemaker and her friends as she deals with a canoeing mishap and a couple of bodies. Strange happenings in the campground, the nearby nature learning center, and an old power plant complicate the suspect pool and Frannie tries to stay out of it–really–but what can she do? After all, she is only curious, but sometimes it isn’t just cats who have trouble with that!

Peete and Repeat _is an IndieBRAG Medallion honoree and was a finalist in the Chanticleer Book Review CLUE Awards for 2013 and the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards for 2014. It is based on the Root River Valley in southern Minnesota.

Order peete and repeat

I have read each of Nortman’s campground mysteries and each is better than the last. In this one the author really hits her stride. The characters have always been comfortable with each other, and now their roles as characters are equally so. The humor is terrific, and the mystery and daily camping activities blend well. Do read this!” -Elaine, Amazon

No. 4: the lady of the lake


A trip down memory lane is fine if you don’t stumble on a body. Frannie Shoemaker and her friends camp at Old Dam Trail State Park near one of Donna Nowak’s childhood homes. They take in the county fair, reminisce at a Fifties-Sixties dance, and check out old hangouts. But the present intrudes when a body surfaces. Donna becomes the focus of the investigation and Frannie wonders if the police shouldn’t be looking closer at the victim’s many enemies. A traveling goddess worshipper, a mystery writer and the Sisters on the Fly add color to the campground.

The Lady of the Lake is an indieBRAG Medallion honoree and a 2014 Chanticleer CLUE finalist. It is based on Beed’s Lake State Park in Northern Iowa.

Watch the book trailer: http://youtu.be/bmJ06foWlFA

Order the lady of the lake:

So, getting a RV is on my wish list now and these books are the main reason I want one. I love the fact that the author has created a great mystery while including the art of camping in a RV. The mystery aspect of the series has never failed to disappoint me and it keeps me interested throughout the book. The characters are so well done that I feel as if they are really alive!-Deb

No. 5: to cache a killer


Geocaching isn’t supposed to be about finding dead bodies. But when retiree, Frannie Shoemaker go camping, standard definitions don’t apply. A weekend in a beautiful state park in Iowa buzzes with fund-raising events, a search for Ninja turtles, a bevy of suspects, and lots of great food. But are the campers in the wrong place at the wrong time once too often?


Interview with Karen Nortman

1. How long did it take you to start writing in earnest once you knew that was what you wanted to do?
About fifty years. Seriously, I’ve always wanted to write but family, a 22-year teaching career, and 18 years as a test development specialist intervened. However I found my years in testing very helpful in mystery writing. When you write a good test item, you need to come up with several very believable wrong answers–same with a mystery.
2. Are you self published? Did you launch into self-publishing or did you try the traditional route first?
I am self-published. I began looking for an agent when I finished my first book, Bats and Bones, and found one New York agent in particular who was very interested and asked for the full manuscript. He handles a number of cozy mystery authors. But when I read that it could take up to six months to hear back on a full manuscript, a year for the agent to find a publisher if he took you on, and another year to publish the book, I panicked. I was 69 years old at the time and thought “I could be dead before it gets that far!” Self-publishing was just coming into its own and I decided to go that route.
3. What was the most difficult part of the journey?
Marketing. It is my least favorite part and it’s a slow building process. But all of my books are camping related so I have a niche. When I do free promotions, I post them on RV groups on Facebook. I also hand out a couple of books in each campground we stay in and many of those readers go on to buy my other books. I have an email list that I send out a newsletter to about once a month with news about upcoming books and promotions.
4. Do you want to do a stand alone or series?
I currently have two series. The first is the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries that now has seven books. They involve a group of retired friends who camp together and of course come upon a few dead bodies. Most are based on Iowa Sate parks, although the latest one, The Space Invader, takes place in New Mexico. The second series begins with The Time Travel Trailer, involving a woman who buys a vintage camper only to find out that it is a time portal. It was intended as a stand alone, but one of my readers who is also a member of the Sisters on the Fly insisted it should be a series. So the second book, Trailer on the Fly, includes that interesting group of women. And a third is in the works.
5. Do you jump right in to write once you get an idea, or do you plan and outline?
I do both, sometimes simultaneously. I have a rough outline in mind, but it changes as the story evolves.
6. Where do you write? Do you have any rituals or necessities when you write? Is noise a hindrance?
Usually in my recliner–either at home or in my camper. Sometimes in good weather I write outside or on my front porch. Once I get into it, noise is not a problem.
7. Do you write more than one piece at a time? What’s in the works now?
Usually one at a time, but right now I’m working on a prequel for the Frannie Shoemaker series. It will be a novella and offered free on Amazon and other sites. And I’m about a quarter of the way through the third book in the Time Travel Trailer series.
8. What encourages you to write? Discourages? What do you do to motive yourself through the rough times?
I am probably most motivated by interaction with other writers and books on writing. Sometimes one small comment or suggestion gets me going. I am involved in a local workshop held annually at our library and a member of the Midwest Writing Center. I keep in contact with several other writers on a regular basis, including one of my college roommates, Mary Howard. I also am supremely motivated by contacts from readers who enjoy my books. Most discouraging is when I am too busy with life to do as much writing as I would like. When I get stuck, I just try and write anything and eventually the words flow again.
9. I’m sure your experiences must compel you to write! Readers want to hear whatever you have to say about that!
As I said, all of my books so far center around camping. We camp a lot with a travel trailer–alone and with friends. Readers ask me where I come up with the humorous incidents and mishaps. I don’t make it up–we’ve either done it or seen it. Several incidents gave rise to the plots. For example, the latest Frannie book, The Space Invader, began when we were traveling through New Mexico a year ago south of Roswell and were stopped by a roadblock. They were searching vehicles for two escaped convicts but since our trailer had been locked since we left Texas that morning, they didn’t search it. Later I thought about the fact that although we always lock the trailer when we get ready to travel, we sometimes forget to lock the outside compartments. On that trailer two of those compartments were large enough for a person. Thus in the book, a felon becomes a ‘space invader’ in Frannie and Larry’s trailer, and of course it’s also a reference to the UFO culture around Roswell.

Meet up with Karen






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