Category: Excerpt

Christmas novella time….part 2

Mary Connealy Header

Do you remember that I gave away a novella last month? A Christmas novella?

Well, no, I’m not doing a rerun. I have TWO Christmas novellas and here’s the second one and I’m especially excited about showing it to you today because I’m doing a FACEBOOK LAUNCH PARTY for it tonight.

facebook-party-1Click Here to say YES to my invitation to the party and your chance to win!

This novella contains books from Mary Connealy (me!), Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman and Anna Schmidt

My contribution to Cowboy Christmas Homecoming is

Longhorn Christmas

 (oh c’mon, you knew it’d be named something like that!)

It was a lot of fun to write and these ladies were really fun to work with.

Here’s an excerpt from

LONGHORN CHRISTMAS

Chapter One

The trouble with lassoing a Texas cyclone was—now you had a cyclone on the end of your rope.

Then what was she going to do with it?

            She dropped a loop over the monster’s head and ran.

            Her cowpony dodged around a clump of trees as the red cyclone with an eight foot spread of horns charged. With whipfast moves, Netty snugged the lasso around an aspen and kicked her horse to get out of range.

            Cyclone, a longhorn mama, with a noose tight around her eight foot spread of horns, lunged at poor Blue. Her razor sharp horns swiped her horse’s rump but she only snared the blue roan’s tail. The horse was scared enough he didn’t take any notice, not counting running for his life of course.

Cyclone came up against the end of the rope and was yanked back so hard she flipped over, onto her side. Then, like a striking snake, she turned and charged the trees. The yellow leaves still clinging in the late November breeze quivered and quaked.

She bounced off the trees then turned back and locked her furious eyes Netty. A big old hank of horse hair dangling from one horn.

            Trembling, Netty stayed atop her horse for a few second, shaking so hard she was afraid if she dismounted she’d just sink down to the ground in a heap. Blue was as bad as Netty. Both of them were quaking as bad as those aspens.  

Cyclone bellowed and pawed the dirt, then turned to thrash at the trees that held her tight.

Netty had to finish.

She swung off Blue, clung to the stirrup until she was sure her knees would hold, ground hitched the horse, and turned to do what she’d come for.

Drive off starvation for another few weeks.

            “Are you all right, Mama?”

            Starvation for her and her son.

            Well, Netty was scared fit to beat all, but her son didn’t need to know that. All she had to do with this job. And with no one to watch her six-year-old son since Ma had died, there was no choice but to bring him along.

            “I’m fine Jeremy.” She looked about forty feet away to a good-sized red oak tree where she’d perched her boy up high—out of Cyclone’s reach. Safe until she could finish this and fetch him.

            But first she had to save the calf.

Cyclone had busted out of the canyon gate and Netty’d been glad to see the back of her. As much as she needed every cow, Cyclone, amid a herd of wild dangerous animals, was the deadliest.

And then today, Netty’d ridden out to hunt food, and found a mess.

            Mama standing guard over a baby she couldn’t reach and was desperate to protect.

Netty worked hard to save every baby on the place. Her hold on survival for her and her son was tenuous and losing a calf, especially a perfectly healthy calf, was serious business.

            But she didn’t rope the cyclone for money, there wasn’t enough of it in the world.

The truth was she couldn’t bear the thought of that baby trapped down here away from its mama, dying a lingering death.

Netty strode to the crevice in the jumble of rocks and looked down. The little red-roaned calf looked up and bawled piteously.

            Carefully, picking a thin ledge for footing, Netty dropped into the hole. It was about five feet, not too far down, just too far for the baby to escape, Netty got into the little notch in the ground, roughly shaped like an upside down triangle. She scooped the poor baby up and hoisted it high and set it on the ground.

Then a terrible bawl from Cyclone—she must’ve spotted the calf—a snap loud as a gunshot sounded, and the rope gave way, just as Netty crawled up out of the hole. Cyclone charged.

            “Look out, Mama!” Jeremy shouted in terror.

            Netty dropped back into that hole and landed face down on the bottom. She looked over her shoulder to see one of those long horns slashing down at her. She flattened against the ground. The horn snagged the coat she wore but the horn didn’t catch. Netty ripped at the coat just as Cyclone rammed her head into the crevice.

            Netty facebook-party-win-a-little-comfort-for-christmasflattened and sucked in her stomach to get as low as possible. The maddened cow missed her again.

            Cyclone gouged at her, hooked a horn, then shoved her head in. Hot breath blasted the back of Netty’s neck.

            Cyclone pulled her head back, snorted and dove. Pulled back again. The calf bawled pitifully and that finally turned Cyclone aside.

            Netty lay still, gasping for breath. That’s when she heard Jeremy screaming………

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stop by Facebook tonight at 8 – 10 Eastern Time. Why is this Eastern Time!!!??? Everybody knows CENTRAL time is the REAL time. I did NOT approve this!

Anyway, stop in from 7 – 9 CENTRAL TIME and join the party (or as we like to call it, “The Wild Rumpus.”)

We’re giving away a prize every 20 minutes or so, and a book is included with each prize package…or sometimes a book alone. I’m giving away a velvet throw, Ruthy’s doing a dried soup mix, Julie is doing Ghirardelli Chocolate, a scarf from Anna. All with the idea of finding a comfortable spot and settling in with a good book!

And I’m giving a book away today here at Petticoats & Pistols, too. Yep, Cowboy Christmas Homecoming. To get your name in the drawing, let’s talk about comfort. Cold weather is coming….we’ve had a lovely fall but this is Nebraska, winter has NEVER ONCE SKIPPED US. It’s forecast to be 61 for a high today. And then tomorrow comes. High in the 30s, love of 20. Excuse me while I weep.

What do you do for comfort? Chicken soup? A velvet blanket? Rewatch Holiday Inn or…It’s a Wonderful Life…or Miracle on 34th Street…or Elf? Turn on Mannheim Steamroller Celebration…such a perfect Christmas album. Chocolates and hot tea? A fireplace (try this and turn your computer screen or, if you get it on your TV, your whole TV becomes a fireplace… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDfjXj5EGqI&t=312s

Let’s talk comfort today on Petticoats & Pistols.

 

A Sneak Peek at The Texan’s One-Night Standoff by Charlene Sands

Hi Y’all.   I’m head deep in my next Texas Cattleman’s Club book, working on a deadline and hoping you’d like a sneak peek at my upcoming Desire.  The early reviews of this book have been wonderful garnering an average of 4.75 Stars out of 5 on Goodreads. Charlene-with-Books

 

And now for a little peek under the Christmas tree:

 

Brooks Newport swiveled around on the bar stool at the C’mon Inn, his gaze fastening on the raven-haired Latina beauty bending over a pool table, challenging her opponent with a fiercely competitive glint in her eyes. With blue jeans hugging her hips and creamy skin exposed from the cropped red plaid blouse she wore, the lady made his mouth go dry. He wasn’t alone. Every Stetson-wearing Texan in the joint seemed to be watching her too.

His hand fisting around the bottle, Brooks took a sip of beer, gulping down hard. The woman’s moves around the pool table were as smooth and as polished as his new Justin boots.

“Five ball, corner pocket,” she said, her voice sultry with a side of sass, as if she knew she wasn’t going to miss. Then she took her shot. The cue ball met its mark and sure enough, the five-ball rolled right into the pocket.

She straightened to full height, her chest expanding to near button-popping proportions. She couldn’t be more than five foot two, but what she had in that small package was enough to make him break out in a sweat. And that was saying something, since he’d come to Texas for one reason, and one reason only.

To meet his biological father for the first time in his life.

He’d spent the better part of his adulthood trying to find the man who’d abandoned him and his twin brother, Graham in Chicago. Sutton Winchester, his bitter older rival and the man Brooks thought might be his biological father turned out not to be his blood kin after all. Thank God.

But Sutton had known the truth of his parenthood all along and all Brooks could figure was the ailing man, plagued by a bout of conscience, had finally given up the name and location of his and Graham’s father.

Brooks would have been speaking with his real father at Look Away Ranch in Cool Springs right now, if he hadn’t gotten a bad case of nerves. So much was riding on this. The trek to get to this place in time, to solving the mystery surrounding the birth of the Newport twins, as well as his younger brother Carson, would finally come to fruition.

So, yeah, the powerful CEO of the Newport Corporation from Chicago had turned chicken. Those bawking noises played out in his head. He’d never run scared before and yet as he was breezing through this dusty town the Welcome sign and Christmas lights outside the doors of the C’mon Inn had called to him. He’d pulled to a stop and entered the lodge in need of a fortifying drink and a good night’s rest. He had a lot to think about and meeting Beau Preston in the light of day seemed a better idea.

He kept his gaze trained on the prettiest thing in the joint. The woman. She yielded the pool cue like a weapon and began wiggling her perfectly trim ass in an effort to make a clean shot. He sipped beer to cool his jets, yet he couldn’t tear his gaze away. He had visions of taking that bend on the pool tthe-texans-one-night-standoffable with her and bringing them both to heaven.

Long strands of her hair hung down to touch her breasts and as she leaned over even further to line up her shot, those strands caressed green felt. She announced her next shot and bam, the ball banked the left side and then ricocheted straight into the center pocket.

The whiskered man she was playing against hung his head. “Man, Ruby. You don’t give a guy a chance.”

She chuckled. “That’s the rule I live by, Stan. You know that.”

“But you could miss once in a while. Make it interesting.”

So, her name was Ruby. Brooks liked the sound of it, all right. It fit.

He had no business lusting after her. Woman trouble was the last thing he needed. Yet, his brain wasn’t doing a good job of convincing his groin to back off.

The game continued until she handed the older guy his vitals on a silver platter. “Sorry, Stan.”

“You’d think after all these years a man could do better against a teeny tiny woman.”

She grinned, showing off a smile that lit the place on fire, then set a sympathetic hand on the man’s shoulder and reached up to kiss his cheek.

The old guy’s face turned beet red. “You know that’s the only reason I endure this torture. For that kiss at the end.”

Her deep, provocative chuckle rumbled in Brooks’ ears. “You’re sweet for saying that, Stan. Now go on home to Betsy. And kiss your sweet grandson for me.”

Nodding, Stan smiled at her. “Will do. You be good now, you hear?”

“I can always try,” she said, hooking her cue stick on the wall next to a holly wreath.

Stan walked off and Ruby did this little number with her head that landed all of her thick silky hair on one shoulder. Brooks’ groin tightened some more. If she was any indication of what Cool Springs was like, he was quickly growing an affinity for the place.

The woman spotted him. Her deep-set eyes, the color of dark cocoa, met his for a second and time seemed to stop. Blood rushed through his veins. She blinked a time or two and then let him go, as if she recognized him to be an out-of-towner.

He finished off his beer and rose, tossing some bills onto the bar and giving the barkeep a nod.

“Hey, sweet doll,” a man called out, coming from the darkest depths of the bar to stand in front of her. “How about giving me a go-round?”

Ruby tilted her head up. “No thanks. I’m through for the night.”

“You ain’t through until you’ve seen me wield my stick. It’s impressive.” The big oaf wiggled his brows and crowded her against the pool table.

She rolled her eyes. “Pleeeeze.”

“Yeah babe, that’s exactly what you’ll be crying out once we’re done playing.”

“Sorry, but if that’s your best come-on line you’re in sad shape, buster.”

She inched her body away, brushing by him trying not to make contact with the bruiser. But the jerk grabbed her arm from behind and gave a sharp tug. She struggled to wiggle free. “Let go,” she said.

Brooks scanned the room. All eyes were still on Ruby, but no one was making a move. Instead, they all had smug looks on their faces. Forget what he’d thought about this town; they were all jerks.

The muscles in his arms bunched and his hands tightened into fists as Brooks stepped toward the two of them. He couldn’t stand by and watch this scene play out, not when the petite pool shark was in trouble. “Get your hands—”

The words weren’t out of his mouth, before Ruby elbowed the guy in the gut. “Oof.” He doubled over, clutching his stomach, and cursed her up and down using filthy names.

Crap. Now she was in deep. The guy’s head came up; the unabashed fury in his eyes was aimed her way. Brooks immediately pulled his arm back, fists at the ready, but before he could land a punch, Ruby grabbed the guy’s forearm. The twist of her body came so fast, Brooks blinked, and before he knew it, she’d tossed the big oaf over her shoulder WWF-style and had him down for the count. As in, she’d laid him out flat on his back.

Someone from the bar groused, “No one messes with Ruby unless she wants to be messed with.”

Apparently, the oaf didn’t know that. And neither did Brooks. But hell, the rest of them had known.

She stepped over the man to face Brooks, her gaze on the right hook he’d been ready to land. “Thanks anyway,” she said, out of breath. Apparently she wasn’t Supergirl. The effort had taxed her and he found himself enjoying how the ebb and flow of her labored breaths stretched the material of her blouse.

He stood there somewhat in awe, a grin spreading his mouth wide. “You didn’t let me do my gladiator routine.”

“Sorry, maybe next time.” Her lips quirked up.

Behind her, the bartender and another man began dragging the patron away.

“Does that happen often?” he asked her.

“Often enough,” she said. “But not with guys who know me.”

He rubbed at his chin. “No. I wouldn’t imagine.”

He kept his gaze trained on her, astonished at what he’d just witnessed. Her eyes danced in amusement, probably at his befuddled expression. And then someone turned up the volume on the country song playing, and his thoughts ran wild. He was too intrigued to let the night end. This woman wasn’t your typical Texas beauty queen. She had spunk and grit and so much more. Hell, he hadn’t been this turned on in a long, long time.

A country Christmas ballad piped in through the speakers surrounding the room. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.

She smiled sweetly, the kind of smile that suggested softness. And he would’ve believed that, if he hadn’t seen her just deck a man. A big man.

Her head tilted to the left and she gauged him thoughtfully.

He was still standing, so that was a plus. She didn’t find him out of line.

“Sure. I’d like that, Galahad.”

I hope you enjoyed my sneak peek!   Check out my website next week for more details on this fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.  To celebrate the fall, I’ve teamed up with more than 60 fantastic contemporary cowboy romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!  Here’s what’s happening starting NEXT WEEK.  And remember to visit me on Facebook and on my website.

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The Texan’s One-Night Standoff is available for pre-order on Amazon and all other stores today.

Updated: November 9, 2016 — 10:48 pm

The Devil’s Rope Comes to Texas — and a Giveaway

Kathleen Rice Adams header

young longhorn

Longhorn cattle in the Texas Hill Country

Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.

Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.

The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.

Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.

barbed wireIn 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.

In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.

The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.

Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.

****

Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.

A Kiss to Remember

 

My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.

The Dumont Way is available in the five-author boxed set A Kiss to Remember. Three other Petticoats and Pistols fillies also contributed to the collection: Cheryl Pierson, Tanya Hanson, and Tracy Garrett.

 

Excerpt:

Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”

One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”

Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.

He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.

The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—

His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.

The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.

“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”

“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”

“What? Twenty-four hours?”

The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”

Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.

Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”

Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.

****

A Kiss to Remember is available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?

Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂

 

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Pie Trivia and a Giveaway

WG Logo 2015-04

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Labor Day.  I hope you all are able to take some time to kick back and enjoy this holiday that’s set aside to celebrate the working man and woman.

The other thing I’m celebrating today is the release of my newest book in the Texas Grooms series, Texas Cinderella. The heroine of this book, Cassie Lynn Vickers, has a dream to one day open a bakery. Her specialty is pies (strange because I love to bake but am no good at pies). So I thought I’d have fun today and give you some Trivia and Fun Facts on the subject of pies.

  • Pies have been around for a very long time. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all made pies of one sort or another.
  • The first pies were mostly of the meat pie variety. The earliest published pie recipe came from the 14th century Romans and was a rye-crusted honey and goat-cheese pie.
  • The thick crusts on medieval pies were known as coffyns, which at the time simply meant basket or box.
  • In A Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare includes a recipe for pies that includes ginger, mace, prunes, nutmeg, raisins and, for a hint of color, saffron.
  • Pumpkin pie wasn’t present at the pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving, but it was at the second in 1623
  • The most popular flavors of pies purchased in America are, in this order: apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry and Dutch apple.
  • A 2008 survey by the American Pie found Americans consider pie more than just a dessert. 35% have had pie for breakfast, 66% have eaten it as their lunch and 59% have eaten pie as a midnight snack.
  • At one time Kansas had a law on the books that made it illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie.

So, what is your favorite pie? And do you have any fun facts to add to the list?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Texas Cinderella.

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Here’s an excerpt from Texas Cinderella:

22 TC- smallMaking up her mind, she decided to share her plan. “I do have an idea about how I might get around this.”

Mrs. Flanagan straightened. “Well, bless my soul, you do have some gumption, after all.” She leaned back with a satisfied nod. “Let’s hear it.”

Cassie Lynn took a deep breath. “It appears the only excuse my father will accept is if I was spoken for. So that’s what I intend to do—find a man to marry.”

The widow’s brow went up. “Just like that, you’re going to go out and find yourself a suitor?”

“I didn’t say it would be easy.” Cassie Lynn tried to keep the defensiveness from her tone. “And it’s not as if I expect anything romantic.” She didn’t have any notions of finding a fairy-tale prince who would look at her, fall instantly in love and whisk her away.

After all, she’d already contemplated a businesslike marriage once upon a time, so she’d already come to terms with that kind of arrangement.

But Mrs. Flanagan was frowning at her. “You’re much too young to be giving up on love. Don’t you want at least a touch of romance in your life?”

“Romance is no guarantee of happiness. And even if that was something I wanted, in this case there’s no time for such schoolgirl notions. So a more practical approach is called for.”

“I see.” Mrs. Flanagan crossed her arms, clearly not in agreement with Cassie Lynn’s argument, but willing to move on. “Is there a particular bachelor you’ve set your sights on?”

“I’ve been pondering on that and I have a couple of ideas. The main thing, though, is I’ve decided what requirements the gents need to meet.” She’d given that a lot of thought on her walk home.

“And those are?”

“Well, for one, since I want to continue pursuing my goal of opening a bakery, the candidate will need to be okay with having a wife who does more than just keep his house. And it would also require that he live here in town so I can be close to my customers, for delivery purposes.”

“Surely you also want to consider his character.”

“Of course. He should be honest, kind and God-fearing.” She didn’t expect affection?after all, this would be a businesslike arrangement?but she did hope for mutual respect.

“And his appearance?”

Cassie Lynn shrugged. “That’s of less importance. Though naturally, I wouldn’t mind if he’s pleasant to look at.” Like Mr. Walker, for example.

She shook off that thought and returned to the discussion at hand. “But none of that matters unless I can find someone who’s also open to my proposal.”

“And you’ve thought of someone who meets this list of qualifications?”

“Two. But I don’t really know the men here very well, so I was hoping that perhaps you could give me some suggestions.”

“Humph! I’ve always thought of matchmakers as busybodies, so I never aspired to become one.”

“Oh, I don’t want a matchmaker—I intend to make up my own mind on who I marry. I’d just like to have the benefit of advice from someone who knows the townsfolk better than I do. And who has experienced what a marriage involves.”

“Well then, much as I’m not sure I approve of this plan of yours, I don’t suppose I can just let you go through it without guidance of some sort.”

“Thank you so much. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”

“Now don’t go getting all emotional on me. I said I’d help and I will. Tell me who these two gents are that you’re considering.”

“The first name that occurred to me was Morris Hilburn.”

“The butcher?”

Cassie Lynn nodded. “From what I can tell, he meets most of my criteria. Of course, I won’t know how he feels about having a wife who runs a bakery until I talk to him.”

“Morris Hilburn is a God-fearing man with a good heart, all right. But he is not the smartest of men and he’s not much of a talker.”

“Book learning and good conversation are not requirements.”

“Think about that before you rule them out. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a man whose idea of conversation is single syllable responses?”

Cassie Lynn paused. Then she remembered the fate her father had in mind for her. “There are worse things.” She moved on before her employer could comment. “The other gentleman I thought of was Mr. Gilbert Drummond.”

“The undertaker? Well, I suppose he might be someone to look at. Then again, he strikes me as being a bit finicky.”

“There are worse qualities one could find in a man. Besides, a woman in my position doesn’t have the luxury of being choosy.” More’s the pity. “But I’m open to other suggestions if you have any.”

“I’ll need to ponder on this awhile.”

“Unfortunately, my time is short.” She hesitated a heartbeat, then spoke up again, keeping her voice oh-so-casual. “There’s actually a third candidate I’m considering.”

“And who might that be?”

“I met a newcomer to town while I was at the livery. He just arrived on today’s train.”

“A newcomer? And you’re just now telling me about this? You know good and well part of the reason I hired you is to have someone to bring me the latest bits of news.”

Cassie Lynn laughed. “And here I thought it was for my cooking.”

“Don’t be impertinent. I want to hear everything. How did you meet him? Is he a young man or more mature? Is he handsome? Is he traveling alone.” She waved impatiently. “Come on, girl, answer me.”

She decided to respond to the last question first. “He’s traveling with two children, a niece and nephew. I met the little boy first. Noah is about seven and such an endearing child—intelligent, curious, outgoing. The little girl, Pru, seems shy and quiet.”

“Enough of the kids,” Mrs. Flanagan said with a grumpy frown. “Tell me about the uncle.”

Cassie Lynn paused a moment to pull up Mr. Walker’s image in her mind. “He has hair the color of coffee with a dash of cream stirred in, and his eyes are a piercing green.” A glorious shamrock-green that she could still picture quite vividly. “He’s lean but muscular, if you know what I mean, like he’s used to doing hard work.”

“And his age?”

“I didn’t ask.”

Mrs. Flanagan made a disapproving noise. “Don’t be coy with me, Cassie Lynn. Take a guess.”

She hid her grin. “I suppose I’d put him around twenty-four or twenty-five.” Though there was something about the look in his eyes that spoke of experience beyond his years.

“How did you come to meet him?”

Cassie Lynn explained the circumstances as she crossed the room to retrieve an apron that hung on a peg near the stove.

“So what was it about him that made you decide after only ten minutes in his company that he might be the husband you’re looking for?”

“I only said he might be worth considering.” Then, under Mrs. Flanagan’s steady gaze, she shrugged. “I suppose it was the fact that he had two young children in his care—it made me think he might be a man in need of a woman’s help.”

“I agree with you there,” Mrs. Flanagan said. “A single man in charge of two young’uns sounds like a gentleman in need of a wife if there ever was one.”

Purchase at Amazon here: Texas Cinderella

 

 

Updated: September 4, 2016 — 11:17 pm

Guest Kari Trumbo Talks Train Wrecks

Kari Trumbo is one of those people who sneaks up on you — in a good way. She’s not loud or rowdy (like some of us who won’t be named…ahem). Dig beneath the surface, though, and you’ll find a warm heart, a passion for family and fiction, and a sincere desire to live the precept “love thy neighbor.” She’s come to visit with a “story behind the story” of her new western historical romance.

****

To Love and ComfortIn my latest novel, To Love and Comfort, Margot must face a train disaster. Now, I had only read minimally about train accidents in history with my children (we homeschool). When the story started veering in that direction I had to stop and do some research.

Most of the big train accidents happened earlier than the setting of my story. That is not to say they didn’t happen in 1901, just that the majority of these incidents happened earlier in history. They happened by and large because of brake systems that could wear out and bridges that were built quickly and not maintained well. Trains weren’t new, but what had to be done to maintain a 50-year-old bridge was.

I also had to research what large river my character was likely to cross and what the terrain might be where it crossed. This proved to be incredibly difficult, as the U.S. has a lot of rivers and the terrain varies a lot even within small distances. In the end, I ended up going with the terrain the way my character described it and made the disaster over the Ohio river, as that was the river it was most likely they would have been traveling over.

In the end, I found the train disaster fascinating and terrible to research. Putting my character through that situation was daunting. I am so thankful for history and survivor testimonies to help us know that our writing about feelings and what situations would be like are as accurate as they can be.

To Love and Comfort

Margot Fleur is devastated by a secret kept by the man she’s known as her father, tearing her heart to pieces. Struggling with feelings of isolation, she desperately wants to be part of something more; to be whole.

Tyler Wilson longs to sweep Margot off of her feet. Seeing past her imperfections, he loves her for the sparkling spirit and bright dreams she once held so dear and only wants to see her smile again. Strong and determined, he sets out to win her heart but will a stubborn unwillingness to hear the call of the Lord forever keep them apart? And if he doesn’t learn, will Margot be lost forever?

Excerpt

“Where did the 72 depart from?” But he knew the answer before he asked. His face pinched with pain before the answer was even given.

“Philadelphia, sir. The wreck is about thirty miles straight west of here. Follow the tracks out of town, but be careful. They’ll be trains coming along soon to bring those passengers back. You might want to wait here if you knew someone on the train. Might miss them.”

Tyler backed out the door, his mind a mess of what he’d just heard. She had to be alive. He’d know if she were dead, wouldn’t he? That dreadful feeling meant she needed him, not that she was gone…right? He turned as Jax approached him.

“What did you learn?” He grabbed Tyler’s shoulder and shook him.

“I need a horse, a fast one.”

Jax grabbed his other shoulder. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

Tyler looked up at him and shrugged his hands off. “I have to go get her and the stage will slow me down.”

“You’re sure you know where you’re going?”

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.”

 

Kari TrumboKari Trumbo is a writer of Christian Historical Romance and a stay-at-home mom to four vibrant children. When she isn’t writing, editing, or blogging, she homeschools her children and pretends to keep up with them. She is the author of the Western Vows series and co-author of the Best-Selling Cutter’s Creek series. Kari loves reading, listening to contemporary Christian music, singing with the worship team, and curling up near the wood stove when winter hits. She makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband of nineteen years, two daughters, two sons, and three cats.

Places to follow Kari:

Website           Facebook        Twitter            Pinterest          Amazon          BookBub

 

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Movie Quotes: You Can’t Say it Better Than That!

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I love good dialogue, especially when it delivers the unexpected or makes me laugh. Dialogue sparkles when it reveals insight into the character, adds conflict, or moves the plot forward. I also like dialogue that adds sexual tension—hee haw!  Here are a few of my favorite western movie quotes.

The Ououtlawtlaw Josey Wales

Josey Wales: When I get to liking someone, they ain’t around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to disliking someone they ain’t around for long neither.

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

Wobbles: You can trust me, Frank.
Frank: Trust ya? How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders, a man who can’t even trust his own pants?

True Grit

Rooster Cogburn: Damn that Texan, when you need him he’s dead.

The Magnificent Seven

Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.

 Tombstone

 Wyatt Earp: You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?

 Unforgiven

The kid:  Well, I guess they had it comin’.
Munny: We all got it comin’, kid.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

 Man with no name: See, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.

 The Cowboys

Jebediah: Above all, forgive me for the men I’ve killed in anger…and those I am about to.cowboy

 Pale Rider

Preacher (played by Clint Eastwood): Well, if you’re waitin’ for a woman to make up her mind, you may have a long wait.

 Support Your Local Sheriff

Jake: You want me to tell Joe Danby that he’s under arrest for murder? What’re you gonna do after he kills me?
Jason: Then I’ll arrest him for both murders.

The Searchers

Martin: I hope you die!
Ethan: That’ll be the day.

Blazing Saddles

Lamarr: Taggart.
Taggart: Yes, sir.
Lamarr: I’ve decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes.
Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir?
Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the West. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nit-wits, half-wits, dim-wits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bush-whackers, horn-swagglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!
Taggart: Could you repeat that, sir?

GWTWWestern movies aren’t known for love or romance, so I offer one of my favorite romantic quotes from Gone with The Wind:

Rhett Butler (who else?) You should be kissed — and often — and by someone who knows how.

And finally, here’s one from my soon-to-be-released book Left at the Altar

Josie (when the groom fails to show up for the wedding) You don’t suppose something might have happened to Tommy, do you? An accident?
Meg (the bride) It better have!

Do you have a favorite book or movie quote to share?  If not, which of the movie quotes above did you like best?

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.

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Updated: July 28, 2016 — 2:27 pm

Great Escapes? by Patti Sherry-Crews

Patti Sherry-Crews is funny, friendly, and a pleasure to know. She lives smack-dab in the middle of the Midwest and took part of her education in Wales, where she studied archaeology, Welsh, and Welsh literature. Nevertheless, she writes western historical romance. Go figure. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Patti!

Jesse James's Grave in Kearney, Missouri

Jesse James’s Grave in Kearney, Missouri

What do Billy the Kid and the Grand Duchess Anastasia have in common? Like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, The Lost Dauphin of France, and the Princes in the Tower, years after their “deaths” rumors of their survival persisted.

It’s obvious why certain factions in Europe would want their royals to escape death. But why do we want to believe a group of gunslingers and bank robbers went on to live a quiet life under an assumed name?

I’ve been thinking about this question, and except for a few stray individuals such as D.B. Cooper, I can’t think of a group so rumored to have faked their own deaths as much as the American outlaw of the old west.

Is it because the time and place capture our imagination? Or is it the personalities? Maybe we can’t bear the thought these mythologized, larger than life men were fallible after all? I picture Butch and Sundance always two steps ahead of the posse, Billy the Kid slipping out of handcuffs and escaping from jail, and Jesse James outwitting the Pinkertons. It is hard to then, picture these same men pinned down by gun fire in Bolivia, being taken down in the middle of the night while visiting his sweetheart, or being shot in the back while righting a crooked picture.

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Billy the Kid

It was not uncommon for outlaws to go by an alias. Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker. Billy the Kid was christened Henry McCarty in New York City but was also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney. Butch and Sundance moved around South America under the names James Ryan and Harry E. Place (Etta Place). So it’s a short stretch to see them moving on with a new name after “killing off” their old one.

Rumor has it Butch went on to live in the Pacific Northwest under a name unknown to this day. A few Billy the Kids surfaced, Bushy Bill being the most famous. Of all of them, even though Jesse James isn’t my favorite outlaw, I believe he did successfully fake his own death—but that’s another story.

When I was creating my own bad boy for Margarita and the Hired Gun, I had these men in mind, but especially the resourceful and charming Billy the Kid. Like Billy’s mother, Rafferty is an Irish immigrant who got his American start in New York City. The Kid was only 5’3”, and judging by the few photographs we have of him, it’s hard to see his sex appeal. Despite all that, he was quite the ladies’ man. A picture recently surfaced of him playing croquet and wearing a striped cardigan I’d expect to see on my grandfather. He looks incredibly young. A man loved by ladies and feared by men—my type of hero.

Rafferty had many “adventures” in America, and in true outlaw style, he had to change his name a few times. The excerpt I’ve included is the scene where Rafferty tells Margarita his real name. They’ve endured a hair-rising stretch of the trail and both have let their guard down in their relief. It is the first time since fleeing Ireland he hears his own name being spoken.

About Patti

patti Sherry-crews in kitchenPatti Sherry-Crews writes romances because she can’t help herself. She is a romantic who turns everything into a romance in the hope that everyone can just work it out and live happily ever after. Patti has published stories in several other genres, including paranormal and narrative nonfiction. Margarita and the Hired Gun is her first historical western but won’t be her last. The old west has always fascinated her, because the time and place are unique: the mix of cultures all coming together at a point in history when so many people were drawn westward in attempts to reinvent themselves after the great shake-up of the Civil War. The old west saw the borders between law and outlaw blurred, and people moved back and forth between the two, a theme reflected in Margarita and the Hired Gun.

Visit Patti online at Visit Patti online at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

margarita-coverMargarita and the Hired Gun

Beautiful Margarita McIntosh escapes Flagstaff with a hired gun, Rafferty, as her only protection from her father’s powerful enemies who are hot on their trail. Giving up her life of leisure is nothing compared to the passion she finds in Rafferty’s arms. Together, they face a perilous journey that becomes a fight for their very lives—and a dream of the future neither of them could have imagined.

Excerpt

Within minutes, the trail turned onto a flat piece of grassland on top of a plateau. Margarita took in a deep breath. Her hands were shaking. He waited for her to come up alongside him.

“I think we all need a rest,” he said, smiling thinly at her.

He dismounted and led his horse and the mule over to a copse of trees. He tied up his horse and mule to a tree near a patch of grass, which the animals hungrily tore into. Margarita followed his lead.

“Are you hungry?” he asked, reaching into one of the packs.

“No. I don’t trust my stomach right now.”

“Fine, but do get some water into ya,” he said, sitting down with an apple and his canteen on a big boulder in the shade. She sat down on the ground beside him and was met with his look of surprise. She’d never sat near him before.

“What would have happened if the path was too narrow for you to get off your horse?” she asked, shuddering.

He regarded her with a little grin on his face. “You don’t have to think about that now, and I don’t want to. That part of the trail is behind us, never to be repeated on this trip.”

He pulled a large knife out of his boot. Margarita flinched. He gaped at her before cutting a slice out of the apple. He handed her a slice.

“It will do you good. An apple will settle your stomach.”

Her hand brushed against his fingers as she took the slice, sending a shock up her arm. He drew back as if feeling a charge, too.

“Thank you, Raf…I don’t know what to call you. Do you have a first name? Rafferty is a mouthful.”

He looked down and smiled. “I do have a first name.”

After a long pause she added, “But you’re not going to tell me?”

“I’ve got no problem telling you,” he said, but he continued to sit in silence.

“It appears that you do,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t mean to stump you with that question.”

He looked down at her, his deep blue eyes full of mischief. “I’m only trying to work out which name to give you. I’ve had a few.”

“Oh…I see. How about the one your parents gave you?”

He looked down at his hands, focused on carving out another slice of apple. “Michael.”

“That’s a nice name.”

“And Rafferty isn’t my last name. It’s Byrne.”

“Why do you have so many names?”

“Loads of people out here have more than one name. That’s what you do here, which is one reason I like the west. If you stop liking who you are, you become someone different,” he said with a wink, handing her another slice of apple.

She smiled coyly at him. “Mr. Byrne, what have you been up to?”

He chuckled. “Maybe I’ll tell you sometime. We have weeks yet ahead of us. My misdeeds will give us something to talk about. How about you, Margarita? Margarita is quite a mouthful, as well. Do people call you Rita?”

She realized this was the first time he called her by her name. She liked the way her name sounded coming from him. The way he seemed to chew the separate syllables of her name sounded like water roiling gently over pebbles in a creek.

She sat for a moment, relishing the heat radiating in her chest at the sound of her name spoken in his deep, silken voice. He was looking at her with something close to affection in his eyes. Then, she shook herself. “Not if they want to stay on my good side! I hate being called Rita. My father calls me Maggie.”

The smile disappeared, and the blood drained from his face. He stood up. “Time to hit the trail again if we want to reach camp and get these horses watered.”

He was walking away from her, already at his horse.

“All right, Michael,” she said, in a sweet voice, with a smile on her face.

His back was to her, but she saw his shoulders stiffen. Something about the gesture wiped the smile right off her face.

Find the book at:
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Kobo
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Patti will give an ebook of Margarita and the Hired Gun to someone who answers this question before 11 p.m. Sunday: What would your outlaw name be? Go comment!

 

No Other Will Do – Giveaway!!!

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This is the official release week for No Other Will Do. Yay! It’s always so fun (and a little nerve-wracking) to see a new book enter readers’ hands. I’m particularly excited about this one because it is the first in a new series and based on a town of women – feisty, independent women who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and support each other against dangerous odds.

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Click cover to order

Emma Chandler is a strong-minded female raised by spinster aunts to believe that women can do anything men can if they worked together. So she invests her inheritance in starting a women’s colony in Harper’s Station, Texas – a place where women can come for a fresh start. Women escaping abuse. Women alone, who have no means to support themselves or their children. Women looking for a place to practice a trade normally only acceptable for men. All are welcome as long as they agree to pull their weight in the community with honest labor and lend assistance to any sister in need. Following in her late father’s footsteps, Emma runs the bank and the town, offering loans and compassion to women in dire circumstances. But when an outlaw bent on running them out of town threatens the safety of her ladies, she is forced to admit that she might need a man’s help after all. And there is only one man she trusts – Malachi Shaw.

Here’s an excerpt from when Emma and Malachi reunite after ten years of separation:

The first buildings of Harper’s Station finally came into view as Malachi crested a slight hill. Dark silhouettes of pointed roofs rose above the vegetation spread out on the flatland below him. His gut clenched. Emma lived under one of those roofs. The one closest to the edge of town, the old stagecoach stop that had given the town its name.

An odd lightness danced upon his chest as he spotted the building he sought. He rubbed at the spot then scowled when the itch failed to dissipate.

Mal slowed his mount and took stock of the rest of Harper’s Station. A tight cluster of businesses lined one side of the road. A handful of other buildings scattered beyond. Not much there to covet that he could see.

A creak of a door focused his attention back on the station house. A young woman emerged from inside and stepped onto the covered porch. A sophisticated woman with dark hair pulled back from her face and wound into an intricate bun at her nape. A grown up woman of means and mission.

Mal’s heart thudded in his chest as he halted his mount. After all the letters they’d exchanged over the years, he’d thought he’d been prepared to see her again. He’d been wrong.

She curled her fingers around the railing post and leaned forward to look at him. Her brows arched slightly. “Malachi?”

The name fell from her lips so softly, he doubted he’d actually heard it. Must’ve just read the shape of it on her mouth. A mouth within a face achingly familiar yet changed.

Mal stared. He couldn’t help it. His little Emma had grown into a handsome, well-put-together woman.

The long, tan skirt she wore swept the porch steps as she slowly descended. Her ivory blouse puffed up slightly at the shoulders, nipped in nicely at her tiny waist, and swelled over curves he hadn’t remembered being quite so . . . pronounced in the thirteen-year-old girl he remembered.

His collar seemed to tighten around his throat.

“Malachi? Is that you?” She’d reached the bottom stair, her hand falling away from the post.

“Yep.” The short, scratchy croak of an answer wasn’t much of a howdy after ten years, but it was all he could manage.

Then she smiled. No, it was more than a smile. Her entire face lit up with such joy it nearly knocked him from his horse. He’d forgotten. Forgotten what it felt like to have someone look at him like that. Like the world had suddenly gotten better because he’d arrived.

Unable to withstand her beaming a moment longer, Mal jerked his attention down to his saddle and concentrated on dismounting without doing something stupid like fall on his rear. He hoped his impassiveness would dim her enthusiasm enough for him to get a grip on his sputtering brain and allow him to think of something slightly intelligent to say.

He should have known better.

The instant his boots hit the dirt, she hit him. In a full-on, no room to breathe hug.

woman with sketched strong and muscled armsIn honor of release week, I’m giving away THREE copies of Emma and Mal’s story.

For a chance to win, simply leave a comment about one of your favorite strong female leads from a book or movie. Or better yet, real life.

What characteristics make this woman strong in your eyes? What trait do you wish you had more of in your own life?

 

It’s a Dog’s World–Book and Dog Toy Giveaway

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When two people share the same dog, there’s bound to be trouble

The Twelve Brides of Summer collection has just been released. My story The Dog Days of Summer Bride features a cow dog, which is just another name for a herding dog. I’ve always loved border collies so that was my breed of choice. Since the dog in my story has the annoying habit of disappearing every week for a couple of days, the independent nature of these dogs was a trait that served me well. His herding instincts also made him the perfect matchmaker. I mean, if a dog can herd sheep and cattle, he can bring people together, right?  Here’s a short blurb:

Music teacher Marilee Davis and blacksmith Jed Colbert don’t realize they’ve been sharing the same dog until…it digs up a stash of stolen loot.  The reward will go to the dog’s owner—if only that can be determined.

Border collies have an interesting history. In the 19th century a Northumberland man created the ideal herding dog by combining several breeds.  TMozarthis particular dog was especially  suited to herding sheep along the border dividing Scotland and England, which is how it got its name.  Collie is a Scottish dialect word to describe herding dogs.

Scottish sheepherders immigrating to America brought their border collies with them.  Some of these same sheepherders were lured west during the California gold rush, dogs by their side.  It didn’t take long for cattlemen to note the value of these black and white dogs and this led to a whole new way of herding.

A good cow dog can do the work of seven cowboys. (Today workers are replaced by machines and robots; back then it was dogs.) By the end of the nineteenth century, border collies and Australian cattle dogs were a familiar sight on every working ranch and cattle drive.

The dog in my story has the annoying habit of disappearing each week.  Tell us about a habit (annoying or endearing) that your dog or a dog you know has, and you could win a copy of The Twelve Brides of Summer and a dog toy made by yours truly.  (Note Giveaway Guidelines apply.)

 

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Updated: May 26, 2016 — 6:21 am

An Excerpt and a Giveaway

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Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I’ve recently had the very fun experience of seeing my very first published book, which had been out of print for over a decade, given a new life by the folks a Serenade Books. It now carries a new title, A Matter Of Trust, and a new cover that I think is gorgeous (but I may be just a tiny bit biased).

Before it was re-published I went through it in order to do some revamping. A really fun side benefit of this was that I got to revisit this story and the characters and remember why I loved it in the first place.

Today I thought I’d share an excerpt from the book with you. So, without further ado…

 

21 AMOT SmallTexas   May, 1892

“The preacher’s cat is an elegant cat.”

“The preacher’s cat is a frightened cat.”

“The preacher’s cat is a gregarious cat.”

“Gregarious.” Toby drew the word out as he stretched the band on his slingshot. “What does that mean, Ma?”

Lucy Ames smiled down at the boy walking beside her. The Preacher’s Cat was a favorite game of Toby’s. He collected new words like other six year olds collected rocks and bugs.

“It means to be sociable, to want to be part of a group of other folk rather than off by yourself all the time.” Lucy pointed to the floppy-eared dog capering along beside them. “For example, Jasper here is very gregarious, but Mustard, for all his skills as a mouser, isn’t.”

“Oh.”

Lucy watched him mentally file away her definition. Her sweet, curious, intelligent little boy, so precious to her. Now that her mother was gone, he was all she had in her life that truly mattered.

Her smile faltered at that reminder, and she pressed a hand lightly against her bodice, comforted by the feel of her mother’s locket, cool against her skin. Then she hitched her shoulder, shifting the weight of the basket she carried. It was a beautiful day, tranquil here in the dappled shade of the woods, and they had an afternoon of picnicking and berry picking ahead of them. Time to concentrate on her blessings, not her losses.

She stepped over a knobby root and paused while Toby and Jasper studied a large beetle lumbering up the side of a hickory tree. There was no need to hurry, no sense of urgency. After all, the walk was as much a part of the outing as the destination. They’d been strolling along this leaf-carpeted trail through the woods for about thirty minutes, and the creek crossing was just past the bit of heavy brush up ahead. Some of the choicest blackberries in the county grew there.

Once they’d picked enough for Lucy to make a cobbler or two, Toby’s favorite treat, they’d eat the picnic lunch she’d packed. Afterwards, they could wiggle their toes in the creek, or look for cloud pictures, or—

A noisy commotion from somewhere up ahead caught her attention. At the same time, Toby reached for her hand. “Ma,” he whispered. “What’s that?”

“I’m not sure.” Lucy gave his hand a comforting squeeze as she tried to interpret the sounds. Was that a horse’s high-pitched whinny? The confusing sounds seemed to come from the clearing at the creek crossing, just beyond that bit of brush.

Putting a finger to her lips, Lucy reached into her skirt pocket, drawing courage from the feel of the pistol and two bullets hidden there. Ever since a rabid dog attacked the Conners boy in these woods a year ago, she’d made sure she could defend herself and Toby when they went out, even if they were only going berry picking.

She motioned for Toby to take hold of Jasper and stay put. After silently praying and loading the gun, she eased over to where she could see past the brush to what was causing all the fuss.

Merciful heavens! Roy and Vern Jefferson were beating the tar out of a man she’d never seen before.

She cringed at the viciousness of the no-holds-barred fight. Even though he was outnumbered, the fast moving stranger fought back with amazing agility. Then Vern picked up a fist-sized rock and hit the stranger on the head.

Lucy swallowed her cry of protest and scooted back to Toby.

This wasn’t her fight. She had no idea what it was about. For all she knew, the stranger could be as rotten as the Jeffersons. And there was Toby to consider. If she got involved and it turned against her, she’d be putting him in danger, too. The smart thing would be to keep hidden until the Jeffersons left, and then do what she could to help their victim.

But heaven help that stranger. Those brutes enjoyed hurting others. They weren’t likely to let up until he lay unconscious. Or worse.

She couldn’t just sit here and do nothing. Surely, with her gun and a bit of bluster, she could run them off. They might be meaner than a sack of rattlers, but they were cowards who’d run at the first hint they’d lost the upper hand.

Dear Father, please give me the courage to do what is needed here.

“Keep a tight hold on Jasper and stay here,” she whispered to Toby. “Stay very quiet, and don’t dare show yourself until I tell you it’s clear. No matter what. Do you understand?”

Looking at her with wide, frightened eyes, he nodded.

“Don’t worry.” She tousled his hair again. “I’ll be all right.”

As Lucy moved away, her smile vanished. Inching forward, she took another peek into the clearing. The stranger lay on the ground, belly down and unmoving. Roy and Vern stood nearby, rifling through his saddlebags.

Now that changed matters considerably. Lucy slipped further back into the cover of the brush. She might intervene to save a life, but not property. No, she’d wait until they took whatever they wanted and left. Thank goodness she wouldn’t have to—

Lucy stiffened as the stranger stirred and pushed himself up. She watched, open-mouthed, as he launched into Roy.

Some of Lucy’s sympathy evaporated as she silently fumed at his recklessness. Why couldn’t the fool just play possum until they rode off? Surely nothing in that saddlebag was worth dying for.

The injured stranger’s bravado proved no match for the bullies. Vern grabbed him from behind, pinning his arms. Roy, with a vengeful smile, punched the stranger in the gut. Then he pulled his fist back for another blow.

She didn’t dare wait longer. Offering up a silent prayer, and ignoring the nervous churning in her stomach, Lucy stepped into the open, pistol leveled.

Click on the book cover to learn more about the book.

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Leave a comment today to be entered in a drawing, winner to receive his or her choice of any book in my backlist.

 

 

 

Updated: April 10, 2016 — 1:26 am
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