Finally an answer to the question: What the heck does #TLM7 mean?

I know I've been teasing you with the hashtag #TLM7 for the last year on social media. Not only does this post reveal what that was code for, but it also reveals what you really want to know: the title, cover and book description of the feminist Western I've been working on for the last year!

#TLM7 stood for what I pitched to the publisher: Thelma and Louise meet the Magnificent Seven, and the final product has lived up to the description. All books go through changes from idea to publication, but the heart of the story—two women and their makeshift family of outlaws determined to go it alone in a man's world—is definitely intact. And, I have to admit: I love this novel to pieces.

So, without further ado, HERESY.


The Parker-LaCour Gang. The first and only all-female band of outlaws in the American West. Ignored during their time. Written out of history. 

Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw. 

After being run off their ranch by a greedy cattleman, their family is left destitute. As women alone they have few choices: marriage, lying on their backs for money, or holding a gun. For Margaret and Hattie the choice is easy. With their small makeshift family, the gang pulls off a series of heists across the West.

Though the newspapers refuse to give the female gang credit, their exploits don’t go unnoticed. Pinkertons are on their trail, a rival male gang is determined to destroy them, and secrets among the group threaten to tear them apart. Now, Margaret and Hattie must find a way to protect their family, finish one last job, and avoid the hangman’s noose.

HERESY goes on sale October 2, 2018!

Click the link below to pre-order.

Goodbye 2017. Thank God you're over.

Photo by Barcin/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Barcin/iStock / Getty Images

I have to be completely honest: I'm glad 2017 is coming to a close. It has been a rollercoaster of a year, professionally and emotionally. Everything that is going on in our country has distracted me to the point that my writing suffered and made the book I worked on one of the worst writing experiences of my life. It was damn hard to write, to get motivated to write. I took procrastination to an entirely new level this year, which stressed me out and made writing more difficult. My very own ouroboros.

The good news is I've finished the book and it is awesome. I am so excited for the world to meet Margaret Parker, Hattie LaCour, Grace Trumbull and Joan and Stella Elbee, and go along on their final adventure. If you liked the Sawbones series, you'll like this book, though I'm sorry to say there isn't nearly as much grit and blood in this one. Rest assured, it's still a feminist western and keeps its focus squarely on women in the West and their experiences. Though it isn't a sequel to the Sawbones series, some familiar characters will make cameos.

No, there isn't a title yet, and the release date is still October 2018. But! We should have a title, cover, book description, release date and pre-order button at the beginning of next year! Trust me, you'll know as soon as I do!

2018 is shaping up to be pretty darn good! Besides the book release in October, my events calendar is filling up nicely. But, there is always room for visiting Book Clubs! Attending book clubs has definitely been one of the highlights of 2017. I have met so many amazing people, had in-depth, fascinating discussions, and drank enough wine to...well, I probably shouldn't say. If you would like for me to visit your book club, click here and complete the contact form.

FYI, the Kindle version of SAWBONES will be $2.99 through the end of December. In January, the publisher is setting the Kindle price at $4.99 permanently! If you haven't read SAWBONES yet or have a friend you want to gift it to, now is the time!

As to news on the JACK MCBRIDE Mystery Series front: The good news is January 1st I will start work on the third JACK MCBRIDE mystery, tentatively titled, MAN OF THE YEAR. It's a tentative title because no one ever likes my titles! The bad news is, I don't have a publication date yet. Jack and Ellie fans will have to be patient for a little bit longer, but I promise you a third book is on the way!

I want to extend a very sincere thank you to all of you, my readers. You are what kept me going, kept me writing, this year. I appreciate every email, Facebook message, tweet. Thank you for coming to my events and making me feel like I am touching lives in some small way. You humble me and make me want to be a better writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

See you in 2018!




Awesome News Alert - Texas Book Fest Edition!!!

TXBF17_Poster-low-res (1).jpg

Tuesday night, the Texas Book Fest revealed its author lineup and guess who was on that list? ME!!! I'm beyond thrilled. For a Texas author to be invited to this book fest is, at least for me, the pinnacle of awesomeness! I'm joining an amazing group of authors including Dan Rather, Jenna and Barbara Bush, Attica Locke, Sara Dessen, Paulette Jiles, Walter Issacson, Meg Gardiner, and Jeffery Eugenides, to name just a few.

If you've never been to the Texas Book Fest you should really go. It's one of the biggest festivals in the country, is in Austin, one of the best cities in the country, and it's FREE! 

Don't know my schedule as of yet, but as soon as I do, I'll post it!

No, seriously: you need to stock up your e-reader for summer now!

I have it on good authority that sometime after the Mother's Day special runs out next week, the digital versions of SAWBONES, BLOOD OATH and BADLANDS will increase in price to roughly $7-$9/book. That's still a great deal for four hundred pages of awesomeness! But, if you can get them for the next week for less, why wouldn't you? Pre-orders should stay at the lower price.


Kobo | Nook | Google Play | iBooks

Why am I not linking to Amazon? This is why.

Until Amazon treats authors and publishers fairly or clarifies this new policy, I refuse to link to them. You are welcome to buy from them, but know that there's a very real chance that authors will not receive royalties from third party sellers. If you want to support authors, make sure to buy the books SOLD BY AMAZON and include Prime. Shipped by Amazon doesn't mean the same thing.

Digital copies are the same price regardless of the app you use, and all of the above apps are free.

Did you Love Sawbones & Want to Know What Happens Next Before Anyone Else??

I've got a giveaway for that!

Write a review for SAWBONES on Amazon and link to it either here in the comments below, or on my FB, or share it on social media (be sure to tag me!) and you'll be entered to win a signed & personalized copy of BLOOD OATH two weeks before anyone else!

But wait, there's more!

If you follow me on social media you'll know I'm in love with the audio version of SAWBONES. So, I'm including a code for a free audio version of SAWBONES through Downpour! Keep it for yourself to enjoy SAWBONES in a whole new way, or give it to a friend to share the SAWBONES love!

Improve your chances to win!

If you copy and paste your SAWBONES review to multiple sites (B&N, IndieBound, Goodreads) and link those as well, you'll be entered for each website! One review, multiple entries!

Be sure to tag me in your social media posts and use the hashtags #Sawbones #BloodOath!

DEADLINE IS May 8! Let's get SAWBONES to 100 reviews on Amazon!



"Kill or be killed historical romance with bandits, Pinkerton agents, bounty hunters, mystery and more. Melissa Lenhardt writes with passion and does not hold anything back." -RT Book Reviews

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run-from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura's capture as their own. But the danger isn't just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle each have demons of their own and a past that won't stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred, and surrounded by enemies, neither realizes the greatest danger is yet to come.

Blood Oath is the second novel in a gripping historical fiction series.

New Details for the SAWBONES Launch Party!

Guess what? We're having a launch party for SAWBONES at the Half Price Books on Northwest Highway! There will be a selfie station where you can take photos in front of a wanted poster, and props to let you dress up like one! There will be SAWBONES bingo with a chance to win a door prize which will include an Advance Reader Copy of the second book in the series, BLOOD OATH! There will be some sort of refreshments - finalizing that now! And, I'll be discussing SAWBONES, the series, and writing in general with my good friend & phenomenal writer in her own right, Jenny Martin!

I know some of you live out of town, but we've got you covered! If you live out of town, or just won't be able to make it to the launch, you can call the HPB store and order a signed copy! I'll even personalize it for you. Just let the store know who I should personalize it to, and HPB will get it done! They'll contact you after the launch for shipping/payment info! Super easy! Phone number is below, with date/time/address! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 11

7:00 - 9:00 pm

Half Price Books

5803 Northwest Hwy

Dallas, TX 75231

(214) 379-8000 

Celebrate Women's History Month with SAWBONES on sale for $2.99!

Yea! It's Women's History Month where we get to learn about all of the women that have been written out of history!

And, whattya know? SAWBONES is on sale for $2.99 in a STRONG FEMALE LEADS promotion. Follow your preferred ebook platform below to check out the list, which includes some pretty awesome books. 

 iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble  | Google

SAWBONES Full Cover Reveal!

Hello everyone! I'm so excited to be able to share the full cover for the print version of SAWBONES, which is being released on April 11. I'm absolutely in love with this cover. This baby is going to look beautiful on a bookstore shelf!

Two months! I'm counting down the days! 

Click HERE to pre-order Sawbones, Blood Oath and Badlands (and the Jack McBride mysteries).

Five Tips for Surviving NaNo 2016

Confession time, here's what I got: I've never completed NaNo.

In fact, my lifetime word count for three NaNos is 37,000. That's...pathetic. So, I'm probably not the best person to be giving out tips on how to survive NaNo, am I?

No, and yes. The "no" is obvious, but why the "yes?"

Over the last two years, I've learned at thing or two about writing full time, under deadline, and pushing through even when you have absolutely no confidence you can do the thing you've set out to do. That has pretty much been my life since last January, and I predict it will be my life for the foreseeable future. I seem to keep setting ridiculous goals for myself, and ridiculous goals keep getting set for me.

But, here's the thing: I'm hitting them. 

You know why that's awesome, besides the obvious? 

Every time I hit a goal, it gives me confidence that I'll hit the next one.

It can all be traced back to the book deal I signed in December '14. The publisher wanted the second book in the series by June 15, the third by December 15. I laughed. I'd never in my life gone from zero to finished MS in six months. They wanted two in a year? LOLOLOLOL There was absolutely no way I could do that. I asked my agent to get more time.

The publisher offered an extra month for the first, three extra for the second.

Cue freakout.


I had nothing besides two characters and a setting. No plot. No framing device. No new characters. But, the deal was signed, the money deposited. This was it. My chance. I'd been writing for over twelve years, working to get to this point. Thousands of other writers would kill to sign a three book deal with a major publisher. Failure wasn't an option. But, fear of failure was very real.

Fear is a great motivator, at least for me.

So, I did it. I figured out the main story beats (in my head; I hate outlining) and started writing. Every day I sat down at the computer and asked myself, "Now what?" I'm not sure how long it took me to finish the first draft, but it couldn't have been that long. I sent it to my first reader as a first draft for the first time ever and waited, a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew he was going to find a Mack truck sized plot hole and tell me, "Melissa, this sucks." It couldn't suck. I didn't have time for it to suck! 

He sent it back and said, "This doesn't read like a first draft. Good job."

I contribute the success of that draft to two things: I didn't over think, and I didn't over write. I didn't have the luxury.

So, here I am, nearly two years later, going into NaNo with three acts, 15 story beats, and a couple of characters. Am I nervous? Sure. A little. But, worrying doesn't get words down on the page, it just keeps you up at night and makes me eat everything in sight and gain ten pounds (something else I learned last year). Tomorrow, I'm going to sit down at my computer and say, "Let's go." Every day in November I'm going to ask, "Now what?" until I've finished NaNo. And, every day, I'm going to remind myself of these five things:


Five Tips for Surviving NaNo

Don't put too much pressure on yourself

The world won't end if you don't write 1666 words on Thanksgiving Day. Trust me. Life gets in the way of writing ALL THE TIME. That's why having NaNo in November is so perfect (for Americans, at least). A major holiday smack dab in the middle of the month, your kids have a week off of school, and you're stressed either about hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, traveling across the country or about the horrible opinion Uncle Harvey will spout off across the dinner table. All that will wreak havoc on your word count. You have to deal with all of that AND write 1666 words a day? Yes. But, don't let the failure to hit your goal one day ruin the second. Brush if off and move on.

But don't let yourself off easy, either

You're doing NaNo for a reason. Me, I have a book to deliver to my editor next August. Seems like a lot of time, right? Not really. I have four books being released next April, May and June, and i have no idea what kind of time commitment that will require. My son graduates from high school in June, goes to college in August (sobs, DON'T LEAVE ME!!!), we go on Spring Break in March and vacation in July. And, in between all of that is life. Time contracts more often than it expands, and it's never going to get better. Keep whatever your reason for doing NaNo at the front of your mind for those days when you just don't feel like writing, or you think you don't have the time. You'll never get time back. Use it wisely.

The point is to put words on the page

Not to be Hemingway or McCarthy or Piccoult or Weiner or Austen or Dickens. Writing is rewriting. (You knew I couldn't get out of writing a post about writing without at least one trite saying.) Get the story out on the page, show yourself you can write every day despite all of the distractions November throws at you. Worry about making it good in the next draft.

Remember: 50,000 words is not a novel...

For some genres, 50K would be acceptable - middle grade, category romance, some YA. But, most standard word counts for adult novels start at 70K and go up from there.  Lit Rejections offers a good guide to word counts.


...It's the beginning of the process

You'll never get published unless you write. That's the secret to writing. If you don't start, you will never finish. So stop making excuses, open your word processing program and get writing.

Find me on the NaNo website and prod me to keep going, and I'll do the same for you! 

SAWBONES to be released in trade paperback in 2017!


Since SAWBONES was released in March, I've been asked by many people when they can buy a physical book. I've always had to answer this question with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, a mostly ineffective explanation of ebook only contracts, and "As soon as I know, you will, too!"

Well, today is that day!





SAWBONES, BLOOD OATH and BADLANDS* will be released in trade paperback in April, May and June 2017, respectively.  

I have everyone who bought SAWBONES, as well as everyone who took time to write a review, to thank for this wonderful news! (As well as my awesome editor, Lindsey, and everyone at Redhook who have been so excited and enthusiastic about my gritty feminist Western.) Your support made this happen.

In the good news/bad news department, you'll have to wait a little longer to find out what happens to Laura and Kindle. The BLOOD OATH and BADLANDS ebooks will be released with the print versions in May and June 2017. But, SAWBONES will continue to be available as an ebook, in case you haven't downloaded it yet. There's a handy link below to help you remedy that situation.

But, really, the best part of all of this means there will be a huge, blowout launch party to celebrate the series in April. 

The first rule of publishing: CELEBRATE EVERYTHING!

I'll have more news as we get closer to the release date - new cover reveals, book signings information, launch party details, giveaways - April 2017 seems like a long time away, but time is a flat circle, after all.** It'll be here before you know it!

*BTW, this is also the title reveal for the third and final book in the series, BADLANDS. Yea BADLANDS!

**Yeah, I don't know what that means either. But, it sounds better than, "the older we get the faster time passes."

Sawbones (A Laura Elliston Novel)
By Melissa Lenhardt


It's a pretty reliable question from readers: "Who would you cast in the movie of your book?" or "What actor/actress do you see as Jack?" It's always Jack, interestingly enough. My answer always surprises them: When I'm writing, I don't see my characters' faces. To me, they are a combination of personality traits and tiny physical characteristics: Jack's long eyelashes, the chicken pox scar above Ellie's eye, Kelly's blonde hair, Buck Pollard's barrel chest, Miner's sallow complexion, Ethan's vampire dude hair. As a writer, I don't like describing my characters in too much detail. I prefer the reader to envision the character themselves. It gives the reader ownership of the characters, ties them to the character in a way my detailed description wouldn't.

Still, I get the appeal of casting the movie. (Personally, I'd love to see STILLWATER as a TV series.) There have been dozens of times I've watched a tv show or movie and thought, "She would make a good Ellie." There was one time in Starbucks when Jack McBride literally walked in the door. As soon as I laid eyes on that man I knew he was Jack come to life. You know what's funny? I can't describe him to save my life, except he was tall, dark and handsome and knew how to wear a suit.

The other day when I was pulling together my list of Cowboys & Cowgirls You Want to Ride Off Into the Sunset With (if you haven't checked it out, or shared it on social media, you should!), I decided to cast STILLWATER and blog about it so my STILLWATER readers don't think I've completely forgotten about them, what with all the SAWBONES promotion.

Remember, these aren't who I see when I write, but the actors/actresses I'd like to play the parts. 

Those are my choices. Who would you cast in a tv/movie adaptation of STILLWATER? Or, who do you see in your mind's eye when you're reading? Reply in the comments, or on my Facebook or Twitter.

SAWBONES Blog Tour Starts Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big day! SAWBONES, my labor of love, will be released into the world! Here's a list of the blogs where I will be answering questions, giving away Amazon Gift Cards & digital copies of SAWBONES, and sharing a photo of a Texas landmark featured in the novel. You'll also be able to read chapters one and two! 

I'll be sharing these posts on social media, but check out the blogs today, if you get a chance. Fair Warning: lots of book lovers and great content below!


Books and Broomsticks -- Author Interview #1

Club Hen House Blog Post on Writing Process


Lucylicious Reads -- Chapter 1 Reveal

Q&A A Writer of History


My Book Fix Blog  -- Review


A Novel Reality  -- Author Interview #2



The Crazy Booksellers -- Promo


Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books -- Review

My Bookish Ways Q&A


It's a Jenn World -- Promo


Texas Book Lover -- Author Interview #3

Shelf Pleasure Photo Post 


Margie's Must Reads -- Review


All for the Love of the Word -- Chapter 2 Reveal


BLOOD OATH (Laura Elliston #2) Cover Reveal

One of the most exciting events during the long process of having a book published is seeing the cover for the first time. I've been so lucky with the designers for both of my series. I've loved the covers and have had very few suggestions to make them "better." (I've heard some horror stories about covers from other authors so I know how good I have it!) 

Before we get to the cover, the book summary:

Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this action-packed follow up to Sawbones.

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run -- from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura's capture as their own. But the danger isn't just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle have demons of their own and a past that won't stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come.

When I sent the MS to my editor last year, this is how I described it:

Well, here it is. The sequel. It has bounty hunters, whisky traders, Quakers, frontier photographers, Indians, whores, gamblers, nuns and orphans. There's killing, drinking, gambling, good sex and bad sex, dreaming, tripping, doctoring, revenge, and physical and mental healing.

I mean, seriously. Who wouldn't want to read that?

Are you sold on BLOOD OATH yet? Do you need to see the cover to make up your mind? Are you ready for me to stop talking and get on with the reveal already? Did you scroll down and look at the cover before reading all of this? (I would have, too.) 

Okay, okay. I'll stop rambling. Here it is:


Whatcha gonna do with that gun, Laura? :)

I love this cover, and I love this novel.

I've been working on this book, and the third in the series, for the last year and the more I work on them, the deeper I fall in love with Laura Elliston. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures as much as I've enjoyed writing them. 

Here are a couple of handy little links to pre-order the books so they'll be sent straight to your device at midnight on the release date! One of the best features of e-readers, IMO, is having a new novel ready for you when your alarm goes off in the morning. Well, that and the ability to increase the text size to ginormous without anyone knowing. At least, that's what my friends say. ;)

Oh, and FYI: the first chapter of BLOOD OATH will be included at the end of SAWBONES!

THE FISHER KING: Jack McBride #2 Cover Reveal!

Last week at writers' workshop, I passed out bookmarks for my upcoming historical fiction novel, SAWBONES, and announced that STILLWATER would be on sale for $1.99 this week. Later, a friend asked me what I'm working on. I told her, and she looked puzzled. "Which book are you working on right now? The mystery or the historical fiction."


When I signed the deals for the mystery novels and the historical fiction series, I never considered how confusing it would be to talk about five books being published within fifteen months of each other. Hey, I'm not complaining; it's a great "problem" to have! I considered sitting on THE FISHER KING (Jack McBride #2) cover news until after SAWBONES comes out (March 29!) to reduce the possibility of confusion, but I can't wait. It's too exciting and I love the cover too much. 

How awesome is that? I love, love, love the colors! And the trees and sky reflecting in the water. And how the trees look a little bit like a gash, which represents...well. You'll have to read the book to find that out, as well as the importance of the fire. 


But, I will tell you this: the evil little cliffhanger I left you on at the end of STILLWATER? That will be resolved one way or another in this book.

THE FISHER KING is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble & IndieBound. It will be released in November.

If you want to be one of the first to see the cover for the second historical fiction novel, BLOOD OATH, you need to sign up for my newsletter! I've seen the cover draft and it's amazing. I'm so lucky with the artists, editors and publishers I have working on my novels.

2015 was crazy. 2016 will be insane

With my debut novel, STILLWATER, hitting the shelves, 2015 it will always be a banner year for me. Even now, nearly three months after publication, I still have a hard time believing it's real, remembering I'm a published author. It all seems so strange, like all the crazy great stuff that's happened - getting pre-publication blurbs from bestselling authors, meeting fans and making friends at Left Coast Crime, Historical Novel Society Conference, Bouchercon & DFW Con, the fantastic launch party for STILLWATER, all the wonderful reviews - has happened to another person. Being able to say, "I'm a published author" is the coolest thing in the world, but it's also weird.

Well, things are about to get even weirder. I have three novels being published in 2016, and a fourth being published in January 2017. For those of you thinking, "I didn't seen Melissa much last year..." now you know why! 

March 29, 2016 


will be released across all digital formats (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks). 

Cost is $3.99 and it’s available for preorder now.

August 16, 2016


will be released across all digital formats (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks)
Cost is $3.99 and it's available for preorder from Amazon

November 8, 2016

(Jack McBride #2)

will be released in hardback & digital on Election Day!

January 2017


will be released cross all digital formats (Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks).

Y'all have been wonderful as I've traveled the road to publication. The outpouring of support and encouragement has been humbling. STILLWATER's success is due to every one of you buying my book, telling friends and family, writing reviews, retweeting, pinning, and sharing posts on Facebook, and inviting me to your book clubs. I appreciate it all.

As I settle in to this new career and learn how to best manage my time—being your own boss has it's benefits, but it's not necessarily the best thing for someone who's generally lazy and a master procrastinator like me—I hope to be able to deliver on the exclusive content I promised when you signed up for the newsletter. Short stories, missing scenes, special promotions, they're all on the agenda for 2016.

With four books being released in the next thirteen months, you're going to hear from me a little more often. I'll have three book covers to reveal, a launch party or two to invite you to and hopefully a book signing or three to promote. No spam, but keep an eye out on your inbox. It's going to be a crazy-busy, exciting year.