Category: Giveaways

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, Excerpt and Free Give-Away

Howdy!  And welcome to the Tuesday blog.  Well, today I’ll be giving away THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR in either e-book format or mass market paperback, winner’s choice.   There is a restriction.  It is limited to the United States only.  There are also the rules for free give-away — over to the right here — that govern our give-aways, so please do give that a read.

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverSometimes there’s a problem because some sites out there contact you to ensure you know you’ve won.  But we don’t do that here.  We rely on you to come back in a day or two to see if you are the winner.  If you have won, instructions will be given on how to contact me so that the book can be sent to you.  But you must contact me in order to claim your prize.

Off to the left here is the e-book cover of the give-away book and at the very end of this blog is the mass market cover of the book.

All right.  So with that said, let’s have a look at what I consider to be one of the most fascinating parts of this book, and of this series. This is the first book in THE LOST CLAN series.  Now, this series is set not only within historical times, but within the framework  of American Indian Mythology.  There are a couple of characters in this series of four books which are caught in all four books, and one of those characters is the Thunderer.

The Thunder Being (or sometimes referred to as the Thunder Bird or Thunder God or Thunderer) is central to these stories.   His anger has been stirred up by acts of violence against himself and his children by a clan that is part of the Blackfoot Indians – The Lost Clan.  Interestingly, the Thunder thCACKC4HUBeing plays a dominant role in most Native American tribes — perhaps because when one is living so closely to nature, the Thunderer, who can produce so much damage, would be a subject of much legend.  In this series of books, the Lost Clan has been  relegated into the “mist” by the Creator, who intervened on the people’s behalf when the Thunderer became bent on destroying every single member of the clan.  Imprisoned within that mist, each band of the Clan is given a chance within every new generation to choose a boy to go out into the real world.  That boy is charged with the task of undoing the curse, thus freeing his people from what would be an everlasting punishment (they are neither real, nor dead).  But, not only must the boy be brave and intelligent (there are puzzles to solve within every book), he must also show kindness to an enemy.

th[2]Let’s have a look at the Thunderer and some of the different tales about this being.  In Blackfeet lore, the Thunderer often steals women.  He can take the image of a very large bird — his wings creating the thunder and his eyes shooting out the lightning.  In Lakota lore, if one dreams about the Thunder god, he becomes a backwards person.   He must do everything backwards.  He washes in sand, become dirty in water, walks backwards, says exactly what he doesn’t mean, etc., etc.  The dream is so powerful that it is thought that if one fails to do these things, he courts certain death.  In THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, the hero is one of these boys who is charged with the task of freeing his people.  He is desperate because he only has until his 30th birthday to undo the curse, and the hero of the story is 29, with only a few months left to accomplish this task.  Relying on visions and dreams, he is drawn toward a woman with hair the color of starlight.  But he regards her and his growing feelings toward her, as little more than a distraction, and great suspicion.

thumbnail[5]There is also a legend of the Thunder Being in the Iroquois Nation.  In this legend, a young woman becomes the bride of the Thunderer and through him saves her village from a huge snake that burrows under her village, thus endangering the lives of everyone in her village.  There is still another legend about the Thunderer which you can watch on the Movie called Dream Makers — well, I think that’s the name of the movie (if I am wrong about that name, please do correct me).   In this legend, which is also an Eastern Indian tribe, a young woman marries the Thunderer and goes to live with him in the above world.  But she is returned to her own world when she becomes pregnant with his child.

stortell[1]What is very, very interesting to me is how many and how vast are the stories and legends that abounded in Native America.  Though we often hear or even study the ancient lore of the Greeks, seldom do we read much our own myths — the mythology that belongs intimately with this land we call America — which by the way, to the Native Americans on the East Coast, America is known as Turtle Island.   Fascinatingly, there is a story for almost every creature on this continent, from the crow to the sparrow to the coyote (the trickster), the wolf and bear.  There are legends about the stars, the Big Dipper hosts legends about the Great Bear (Iroquois) and the Seven Brothers and their sister (Cheyenne and Blackfeet).  There are still other tales about the Morning Star and the Evening Star and marriages between the Gods and mortals.

Do you, like me, love these kinds of stories?

In closing, I thought I’d post a short excerpt from the book.

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, by Karen Kay

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverEXCERPT

He stared at her, and in his eyes, Angelia thought she saw a spark of…laughter?

“After all, what trouble could there be, since a man and his wife are often seen alone together?”

Angelia wasn’t certain she had heard Swift Hawk correctly. “What was that again?”

He shrugged. “What?”

“What you just said.”

He gave her a perfectly innocent look and repeated, “Your brother is over by that ridge, trying to discover who trails him.”

“No, not that—that other thing.”

“You mean about my wife and I being alone?”

“That’s it. That’s the one. Your wife? You have a wife?” she asked, feeling more than a little confused.

He said, “Certainly I have a wife.”

She sent him a sideways scowl. “I don’t believe you. Where is this person?”

He grinned. “Right here beside me.”

“Wait a minute. How can I be your wife?”

“Very easily, I think.”

Angelia sat for a moment, dazed. How could this be? On one hand, she was cheered that Swift Hawk was, indeed, very much interested in her. On the other hand, she realized she should have been worrying less and practicing more of exactly what she should say to this man.

Was this what he’d meant when he’d said they belonged to one another? Marriage?

Aloud, she said, “Swift Hawk, have I missed something? I don’t remember a marriage ceremony between us.”

Swift Hawk frowned. “You do not remember? And yet recalling those moments we spent together is forever here.” He pointed to his head, and then to his heart.

“Moments? What are you talking about?”

“You do not remember.” He tsk-tsked.

Angelia grimaced, placing a hand on her forehead, as if to ease the spinning sensation. “There must be something here I don’t understand, because I don’t recall a thing.”

“Ah, then I should refresh your memory. But…surely you do not wish me to do this…” he made a mock glance around him, “…where others might overhear us, or see us.”

“Swift Hawk, please. Be serious.”

“I am.”

She shook her head. “Have you gone crazy?”

“Perhaps, for my wife treats me as though I am nothing more to her than a…” he drew his brows together, looking for all the world as if he were in deep thought, “…friend.”

“You are a friend.”

Haa’he, that I am…plus more. Now, I have something else to tell you, and for a moment, I would ask that we forget all this, switch our duties and I will be a teacher and you will be my pupil.”

“Why?” she asked, still feeling bewildered and having difficulty following his line of thought.

“Because I have a problem in mathematics for you.”

“Swift Hawk, please, we are not doing our lessons now. We are having a discussion about…about…”

Swift Hawk shrugged. “All right. If you do not wish to hear this problem, I will not bore you with it.”

Angelia blew out her breath. “Very well. Tell me.”

“No, I do not wish to disturb you with it…at least not now.”

She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, all right? I… It’s only that you’ve said some things that have…surprised me, things I don’t understand, and frankly, you’re speaking about a subject that must be discussed by us in greater detail. But by all means, let me hear this problem that you have with mathematics first.”

He ignored the sarcasm in her voice and gave her a look that could have been innocent, but it wasn’t. Before she could decide what he was up to, he said, “Tell me, what is the result when you add a man, a woman, and a morning spent together in each other’s arms?”

“Shh. Swift Hawk. What are you doing? Say that quietly.”

“Very well.” Lowering his voice, he whispered, “What do you get when you add—”

“I heard you the first time. Swift Hawk, really, it…it…wasn’t like that… It was…” She stopped, for she seemed incapable of uttering another word.

Now was the time. Now she should tell him.

Angelia opened her mouth to speak, took a deep breath, then held it. How in the name of good heaven could she begin?

She shut her mouth, thinking, summoning her nerve to say what must be said.

Swift Hawk leaned in toward her. “Ah, I can see that you understand. Now you must observe that all of these things, added together, equals a marriage, does it not?”

“No, it—” Angelia shook her head, exhaling sharply. “It does not equal marriage. There was no ceremony.” She said every word distinctively. “But let’s not quibble. Not now. Not here, where we might be overhead. Besides, we forget that Julian might be in trouble. Now, if you would be so kind as to lead me to my brother, I would be much beholden.”

“How beholden?”

Angelia rolled her eyes. “Please, will you take me to him?”

“Yes, my wife,” said Swift Hawk seriously, though she could have sworn that a corner of his mouth lifted upward in a smile. “Truly, my wife, I will do anything you say.”

“Please, if you must say that, say it softly.”

“Very well.” Leaning up onto his elbows, Swift Hawk spoke quietly, for her ears alone, “Yes, my wife. I am yours to command, my wife.”

Angelia raised an eyebrow. “You are mine to command?”

“It is so.”

“Good. Then I command you not to speak to me of this again.”

Smiling, Swift Hawk inclined his head. “Very well. I will show you instead how eager I am to please you.” He held out a hand toward her.

Angelia rolled away. “Swift Hawk!” she uttered sharply, under her breath. “Stop this at once. Just…just take me to my brother.”

“Yes, my wife. Anything you say, my wife…”

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR by Karen Kay

 

Updated: May 22, 2017 — 9:33 pm

What is it about Mail-Order Bride Stories?

My new book, which comes out tomorrow, is about a fictional, newly established town in 1870’s Kansas. The men create a Betterment Committee, banding together to entice women from the east to come there as mail-order brides.

Mail-order brides have been around for ages, although the actual term “mail-order bride” was not in use much until after 1908. It didn’t appear in a major newspaper until 1929 when it was a headline in the New York Times.  That first major occurrence detailed the murder of Carroll Rablen by his mail-order bride, Eva, through the use of poison.

The first incidence of enticing women from afar for men in North America was in 1620 with the arrival of the Jamestown Brides. The Virginia Company was made up of men, many who planned to make their fortune in America and return to England. The founders knew that wives and families would make the men establish roots here in the colonies. The ratio there was ten women to every nine men, whereas in the Jamestown Colony the ratio was six men to every one woman.

westward expansion

Ninety middle-class spinsters (single women 30 years of age and older,) came across the Atlantic on a ship hired by the Virginia Company. They were promised a husband and given clothing and sheets as a further means of enticement to make the journey. Most of these women were from the middle class in search of a better life, and indeed they were able to share property with their husband and held a higher status here as the “founding mothers of America” than they had in England.

As men moved west and established towns, they advertised for women to come to help “grow” the towns and settle them. The Civil War played havoc on the notion that every girl would grow up to eventually marry when it wiped out so many men of marriageable age on both sides of the conflict. In the south, the dearth of men was even higher. That is when matrimonial agencies suddenly sprang up and posted advertisements in every major eastern newspaper.

Were these all honest, forthright ads? Of course not.

mail-order brides

One incidence I came across in my research fascinated me. Eleanor Barry was an orphan who became a schoolteacher. After answering an advertisement in the San Francisco Magazine, she started corresponding with a Louis Dreibelbis who professed to be a miner in another part of California. After several months of letters back and forth, she agreed to marry him and departed on a train to meet him.

As she neared her destination, four men boarded the train to blow up the strongbox that was filled with gold bullion and money. Eleanor asked that they spare her luggage telling them she was soon to be married. The leader acquiesced, blowing up everyone else’s but hers. It was only after she had reached her destination and married, that she realized the man who had spared her trousseau was the same man to whom she had just said her vows—evidenced by a familiar scar on his face.

In romance novels, there is a huge readership for these types of stories. I think this is due to the Cinderella story-line and the happily-ever-after. The first mail-order bride story that I ever read (and where I first heard the term) was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. It was 1986 Newberry Medal winner and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the 1986 Golden Kite Award. I still remember lines from the book!

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Why do you think this type of story is so appealing?
Have you read any mail-order bride stories that you enjoyed and would recommend?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove
(Print or ebook for the continental U.S.A. Ebook for outside the U.S.A.)

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Welcome Guest – Maggie Brendan!!!

While I was writing Trusting Grace and beginning to develop the character of my heroine’s ailing father, it was as if God himself intruded into the sub-plot development with His own idea and what I was about to type totally changed. You know, it’s been said that a piece of an author finds its way into their writing subconsciously. Either way—in my proposal, I had the ailing father suffering from a stroke, but when I began to write about his symptoms it seemed God had other ideas in mind so I went with it. Who wouldn’t when the creator of the world wrote His love story to us?

The centerpiece of my historical romance story is about learning to trust and about finding love again for my heroine and hero who were both widowed. It speaks to the depth of how their characters faced trials through dependence on God. However, as the sub-plot eked onto the page, I finally acknowledged that I would need to do a little research before I went any further—something I hadn’t intended to do. To give you a little background—for five years my husband has suffered from a chronic and rare disease, CIDP, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. It was clear God wanted me to make CIDP the heroine’s father’s illness and not merely a stroke. Could that have even been a possibility during this historical time frame of 1866? I laughed. I rather doubted it, but to my complete surprise I found that CIDP had its beginning as Multiple Neuritis discovered by Robert Graces in 1843 when little was known about the disease. I also found that some experts believe Franklin D. Roosevelt may have suffered from CIDP instead of polio. Wow, God! You knew all along. I smiled and went back to writing.

So what only started out with a story of love and loss for the hero and heroine also became a story of a father/daughter relationship battling illness with lovingkindness and the resilience of the caregiver, my heroine, Grace. It’s very true that God gives us more grace than we deserve, but even more so when we are facing huge battles whether it is death, illness, loss of love, job, financial or spiritual crisis. It was no mistake that three years before when I sent this series proposal to my editor, I called my heroine Grace.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed while writing was the research and it’s easy to get lost in it. So for all you historical writers of the West, when a random or crazy plot line you think couldn’t possibly work for your story, dig deeper into your research. Hopefully, you’ll be wildly surprised as I was and can add that to your novel.

If my story of love, hope, trust and restoration can help anyone who is a widow or have a spouse with a chronic illness help lift their spirits and give them insight, then I’ve written what I was supposed to write.

I’m giving away a copy of Trusting Grace-only in the US, please-for those who comment. The winner will be randomly selected by Petticoats and Pistols.

Have you been a caregiver for an ailing family member? What was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome?

LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN– SNEAK PEEK by Charlene Sands

Today I’m super excited to share with you the first scene in my upcoming story.. LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN!  It’s book 2 of the Forever Texan Series, but can certainly be ready as a stand alone.   Here’s a sneak peek and keep on reading for the giveaway!

 

Gravel crunched under Sheriff Jack Walker’s boots as he exited his patrol car and headed for the cherry red sports car parked alongside the road just outside of Hope Wells. The Texas night sky twinkled above with bright stars, but on the ground his flashlight was his guide. Years of wearing a badge made him ready for anything and he knew better than to think he’d find a driver in that car, not with Wishing Wells, the town’s natural flowing hot pool just fifty feet away. Lovers and others often frequented the waters past closing time, past curfew, sometimes breaking other Texas statutes as well. His mouth cocked up at the notion. He’d broken a law or two at the wells in his younger days. But Jack didn’t rightly recognize the car and that put him on alert.

He crossed the road where gravel became wildflowers and then headed down the familiar path. As he came upon the gate, the chain link didn’t appear to be jimmied, but that didn’t mean much since the gate was more than climbable. There’d never been a need to secure Wishing Wells with anything more than a strong link fence, Hope Wells being a peaceable town for the most part.

The honeyed sweet scent of star jasmine flavored the air as he drew closer. His ears perked at a disturbance in the wells, a quiet swishing that only occurred when someone was upsetting the soothing waters.

“Who’s there? You’re trespassing at this hour. This is Sheriff Jack Walker.” Giving fair enough warning for a trespasser, he climbed over the gate. He hoped like hell he wouldn’t find two lovers going at it hot and heavy.

His flashlight illuminated the springs with a blast of brightness. Nope not two lovers at all, but one scantily clad woman.

A woman he recognized.

His eyes burned hot and his senses blurred.

He shined the light just below the soulful, baby blue eyes of the trespasser.

Damn.

Jillian Lane.                                                                                                                                                                     

What was she doing here? He didn’t think he’d ever see her again. It’d been years since Jillian had washed her hands of Hope Wells… and of him. He was over her, but cool and casual wasn’t what pounded in his chest now. Instant disappointment at his reaction to her sent him back eleven years.

“Hello, Jack.”

Her soft sultry voice filled him up with memories. “I see you’re still breaking laws, Jillian.”

A smile surfaced and the baby blues that had once done incredible things to him, seemed just as potent now. She had charm and grace to spare, a trait he’d once thought was exclusive only to him. He’d thought he’d known her mind too, but she’d proved him wrong in the end and his grief had lasted too long to admit, even to himself.

“As I recall, you helped me break more than a few, Jack.”

The moonlit waters flowed freely around Jillian’s bare shoulders. What in hell was the famous lingerie designer wearing underneath all that pooling water? A bikini? A thong? The woman ran a successful million-dollar company aptly named Barely There. Maybe Jillian wore next to nothing.

Jack drew a deep breath reminding him that Jillian wasn’t the girl from the wrong side of the tracks anymore. She wasn’t that poor misunderstood wild child that had once touched his heart and made him want to protect and cherish her. But seeing her at the wells again, unguarded, smiling up at him with a gleam in her eyes and that come-here look on her face, had him stumbling for a comeback.

She had moved on. So had he. Both had made something of themselves. It was best to let it alone. “Now. I protect the law, Jillian.”

She looked away, staring out into the darkness. “And the fine people of Hope Wells.”

“One in the same.”

She stroked the water, her hands playing over the pooling liquid like a delicate instrument. “You were meant to be sheriff. It suits you.”

“Don’t see as I could be anything else, what with my father and his father before him, being sheriff. It’s in our blood, I suppose.”

“It’s a good thing, Jack. I understand you saved a little boy’s life. You’re the town hero.”

“I’m no hero, Jillian.”

His gut twisted. Visions of that fateful day tormented him still. That winter night six months ago, rain had poured down so heavily the banks couldn’t hold and the river overflowed in large gulps. The blinding deluge and a set of bad tires had the driver of a sedan skidding off the road and plunging into the raging water. Trapped inside the car was a family of three, a young boy and his parents. Jack had seen it all happen from his patrol car and hadn’t hesitated to jump into the river. Frantically, he’d searched for the passengers, hoping to help, hoping to save everyone. And then he’d seen it, the small arms of the boy flailing wildly from inside the car, his parents offering up the boy through the darkness as if to say, take him. Take him. Their faces strained in panic as they realized their fate. Jack would never forget that scene, as the swift current carried the car and the boy’s parents under and away. There wasn’t anything Jack could do for them but bring the boy to safety.

“I did what any other man would do in that situation.”

“Not every man, Jack.”

A breeze blew by and Jillian trembled. She’d been in the water too long. Typical Jillian.  “I think it’s time you got out.”

“You mean I can’t make a wish in the wells?”

“Is that what you’re doing, wishing?”

She gave her head a tilt. “Maybe.”

“It’s cold tonight. You should get out.”

“Is that an order, sheriff?” A teasing smile played on her lips.

“It’s a firm suggestion.”

“Will you hand me that towel over there?”

Jack reached for the towel hanging over a tree branch and walked closer to the wells as Jillian stepped out of the waters. Dewey droplets cascaded down her body adding a glimmering sheen on tanned, healthy-looking skin. He held the towel open, dipping his gaze to take a peek of frilly black silk covering her near naked body. Male fantasy wet silk.

“Thanks,” she said, tucking herself into the towel.

“It’s late. You’d best get to wherever you’re going.” He kept his focus on her face and off the tempting swells pushing the barriers of her towel.

“I’ve already been there,” she said breathlessly, running a hand through wet hair, “and the Winslows weren’t home.”

Jack arched a brow, ignoring how the honey blonde strands fell against her bare shoulders. “You’re staying at the Winslow place?”

“Yes. They said I’m welcome anytime.”

Jack twisted his lips and shook his head. He had a thousand questions for her, but only one pounded hard in his head repeatedly. Why was she here? What brought her back to Hope Wells after all this time? “Damn, Jillian. As far as I know, they’re gone for the weekend. Won’t be back until Monday.”

Jillian shrugged. “That’s okay. I’ll get a room at the motel or something.”

Jack took his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. Leave it to Jillian not to see things through. She’d always been the impulsive one, the make-love-to-me now and damn the consequences, kind of girl. Jack had been the one to hold back, to want to wait, to do right by her. Jillian had been a temptation from the start, a girl he’d wanted above all else, but he’d been the responsible one. Sometimes, he hated that about himself.

“Doubtful. The rodeo’s in town this weekend. You won’t find a room anywhere.”

Her face fell. “Oh.”

She chewed on her lower lip and Jack’s temperature rose watching her tongue dart in and out of her mouth as she contemplated her next move. He dragged his gaze off her mouth and glanced at his watch. It was almost eleven–too late for her to go traipsing along the highway looking for a place to stay. Jack doubted she’d find a vacancy for fifty miles or so.

Another breeze blew by and she shivered. Goosebumps erupted on her arms as she hugged the towel tighter. Ah, hell. “Follow my patrol car. I know a place you can stay.”

A nervous little laugh erupted and she shook her head. “No way, Jack. I’m not staying at the jail.”

Jack didn’t hide a wicked grin. “You don’t have too many options, now do you? Get dressed. I’ll wait for you by your car.”

 

Do you enjoy stories about lawmen? What did you think of the excerpt?  Some of my favorite television shows revolving around lawmen are Gunsmoke, Justified and Blue Bloods.  What are yours?  Post a comment and one blogger will be picked randomly and announced at the very end of the day to win a gift ebook copy of Taming the Texas Cowboy, book 1 or another of my available titles.  

LOVING THE TEXAS LAWMAN is available for PRE-ORDER and released on May 22nd.

Be sure to sign up for my latest news and contests at Charlenesands.com 

 

Updated: May 9, 2017 — 4:31 pm

A Contest . . . A Discount . . . And a Research Trip to the Deli

You just never know what you might find at the local WalMart deli. On Sunday, I went in to do my weekly grocery shopping and patiently waited my turn at the deli counter. A nice man was assisting several customers, of which I was the last. I asked for a pound of thinly sliced Virgina Ham, and what I got was a research gold mine.

First, this gentleman told me that the meat was technically Virginia Smoked Ham, though they just added a little flavor to it these days instead of smoking it to preserve it like they did back in the day – letting it hang in a smoke house for months and carving off pieces as they needed. He apparently grew up in a small Virginia town in the 1960’s that still had a mercantile. And one day when he was off exploring the woods as a kid, he smelled popcorn and followed his nose. It turned out he’d stumbled across a “shiner” making corn whiskey. The man had a shotgun and a dog, but our intrepid deli man was not afraid. He’d been reading up on the art of making moonshine in the Foxfire books, you see.

To learn more about the Foxfire project, click here.

What are the Foxfire books, you might ask? Well, they are a series of books chronicling the lost arts of survival in the wild as revealed by the residents of Appalachia who preserved this historic way of life by being closed off from the rest of the world. Well, as soon as I got home with my lovely deli ham, I had to look these books up. Sure enough, first published in 1972, The Foxfire Book set to paper everything you need to know about hog dressing, log cabin building, soap making, basket weaving, planting by the signs, preserving foods, making butter, snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing, and–you guessed it–moonshining.

My research brain quickly began taking notes. What a treasure trove of concrete knowledge for a historical writer! Apparently the first Foxfire book was so popular, they came out with 11 additional volumes covering such topics as: wagon making, banjos and dulcimers, hide tanning, springhouses, horse training, wood carving, knife making, cheesemaking, ironmaking, blacksmithing, flintlock rifles, bear hunting, cucumber dolls, wooden locks, shoemaking, and water-powered sawmills just to name a few.

Who knew that visiting the deli would uncover such research riches?

No Other Will Do On Sale!

The first book in the Ladies of Harper’s Station series is on sale just in time to prepare you for the release of Heart on the Line (book 2) next month.

Emma and Malachi’s story is on sale for only $2.99 (or less – Amazon’s price has been as low as $1.99) for the entire month of May. Yay! Grab a copy or email a copy to a friend. It would make a great Mother’s Day gift, too. Instant delivery for less than the cost of a card.

Click here to download from Amazon. It’s available on Nook and all other digital retailers as well.

Fun Giveaway!

And that’s not all . . .

There’s another big giveaway going on with BookSweeps. Two of the Fillies are participating – me and Margaret Brownley. All you have to do to enter is follow us on either Amazon or BookBub. Pretty painless. I’m giving away my RITA nominated novella, The Husband Maneuver. All the books in this grouping are classified as Christian historicals.

The more authors you follow, the greater your chance of winning.

  • Grand Prize – Kindle Fire and all the books in the overall promotion (including the other categories of historical romance such as Regency, Scottish, American, etc.)
  • First Prize – All the books in the Christian Historical Romance category
  • Second Prize – $25 gift card to the book store of your choice

Click here to enter the contest.

  • So what is the strangest place you have ever learned something interesting?

Railway Post Offices and a Giveaway

Hi,  Winnie Griggs here. I was doing some research the other day on how long it would take a letter to reach Texas from the east coast. As usual, I stumbled on an interesting little tidbit of history that I wasn’t looking for that took me down a fun little rabbit trail.

Did you know that from 1862 until 1977 there existed Railway Post Offices (RPOs).  These were not just rail cars that carried the mail, but were actual rolling post offices.  Between stops, the mailbags, which had heretofore sat untouched during travel, sometimes for days at a time, were now opened and the contents sorted and processed as the train sped toward its destination.

Originally, the railroad cars that housed these rolling post offices, were converted baggage cars that were furnished with wooden furniture.  Soon, however, a Railway Mail Service employee named Charles Harrison designed a set of fixtures that were a vast improvement over those. It consisted of cast-iron hinged pieces that could be folded and unfolded as needed and set in a number of different configurations to hold racks, mail pouches and a sorting table based on needs for specific routes and volumes of mail. These fixtures could also be completely folded away to leave a wide open space, thus converting it to a general baggage car if needed.

Letters that were cancelled aboard one of these RPOs received a postmark that indicated the route’s endpoints, the train number and the designation R.P.O.  A railway mail route could range in length anywhere from a few miles to over 1,100 miles.

Railway mail clerks had to undergo strict training.  Each clerk was expected to know the post offices and rail junctions, as well as local delivery details for the larger cities served along their route.  They had to undergo periodic testing to keep them sharp.  This testing included gauging speed and accuracy in sorting mail on a moving train, and a score above 96% was expected.

At the height of their use, Railway Post Offices were installed on over 9,000 train routes covering more than 200,000 miles.  Some dedicated mail trains were known to carry over 300 tons of mail daily.

The railway post office network began to decline at the end of WWII.  The last railway post office traveled between New York and Washington D.C. and was discontinued on June 30, 1977.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of post office and railroad history. And speaking of mail, do you have any mail-related stories to share – letters from exotic locations, favorite postcards, a pen pal story?  Please do share.

And because I’m so very excited about my upcoming June release, A Tailor-Made Husband, I’m going to give away one of my advance copies to one of the commentators on today’s post.

A TAILOR-MADE HUSBAND

From Bachelor Sheriff to Family Man 

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil.

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

 

Updated: May 8, 2017 — 12:46 pm

The Calgary Stampede with Linda Ford

Today our guest is Linda Ford, who is here to give us some background on the rough and rowdy Calgary Stampede.  Linda will also introduce us to her Big Sky series and give away a book to one lucky commentor!

The year is 1912 and the hero of the story is Guy Weadick, a man born in New York. He ran away from his boyhood home to Montana where he learned to ride and rope and talk like a cowboy. Weadick considered himself to be ‘half cowboy and three-quarters showman.’ Along with other performers, he toured with a vaudeville troupe, barnstorming across the country and even performing in England.

Enter our heroine, Flores LaDue, the stage name of Grace Maud Bensell raised in Montevideo, Minnesota next to an Indian Reserve where she learned riding and roping early in life. At a young age, she ran away from home to join the circus.  A talented athlete, she was famous for roping five running horses while lying down on the arena floor. It is said Guy fell in love with her the first time he saw the petite horsewoman (she was less than five feet tall) hanging upside down from her horse while swinging her rope overhead. Flores was a little more reserved about committing to the re

lationship. She was an independent woman with no interest in marriage. Nevertheless, she couldn’t resist the handsome cowboy and they were married five weeks after being together. He was 21, she was 23. They were partners in a way that was unusual for that day and age. Guy treated her as an equal. After her death, Guy had these words place on her tombstone “A Real Partner.”

Back to the story of 1912. Guy was concerned that the cowboy skills of the West were disappearing as the flood of settlers increased. He approached the Canadian Pacific Railway livestock agent with the idea of staging a rodeo to preserve the old west. He talked some local ranchers into financing his venture and thus the Calgary Stampede was born. From the beginning Guy use this boastful brand that has continued to this day, ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.’ Guy considered Flores the business woman behind this venture. He considered himself the talker—the salesman.

Guy was determined this would be a Big show—$20,000 offered for prizes, 200 imported Mexican longhorn cattle, 300 of the meanest horses, a replica of the notorious Fort Whoop-Up and many other wonderful offerings. He didn’t want to leave out anyone and invited Treaty 7 First Nations to participate. The Stampede opened with a grand parade through the town. Among those watching the performances were the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and daughter, Princess Patricia.

Courtesy of the Calgary Stampede Archives

Top North American cowboy and cowgirl performers came to compete. Mexican Bandit Pancho Villa even sent his best rider.

A number of women contestants participated alongside men in events such as steer roping and bucking horse competition.

One of the most exciting events featured a local bronc rider, a Blood Indian by the name of Tom Three Persons. He drew the bucking horse, Cyclone, a big black gelding that had rarely been ridden. People shook their heads and predicted that poor Tom was done. The horse exploded from the chute and bucked his best but Tom held on and won the most important contest of the show.  The thousands of spectators erupted into a roar of applause.

Several competent trick riders gave Flores La Due stiff competition for the title of World Champion Trick and Fancy Roper but she won the prize in the end.

For some wonderful pictures of the Stampede and the people involved go to http://www.glenbow.org and search Calgary Stampede under the archived photos.
The Calgary Stampede continues to this day—still at tribute to the cowboy skills of the west.

My stories have never included the Calgary Stampede but do honor the cowboy life. My book, Montana Cowboy’s Baby, is out in July. It is the third book in my 6-book Big Sky Country series. It’s a story about a baby left on the doorstep of the hero with a note saying the baby is his. He knows it’s not. This series is set in Montana—in case you didn’t catch that—and features three Marshall young men, their sister and two close friends. Montana Cowboy Daddy was out in Oct. 2016. Montana Cowboy Family was out Jan. 2017. The fourth book—Montana Bride by Christmas—will be released in Oct. 2017. I am really looking forward to that story. It has many sweet elements. At least I think so. I’ve just turned in the fifth book and it’s about Annie Marshall’s friend, Carly, who is prepared to do anything to save her ranch and her home…including marrying a complete stranger.

I will be giving away a copy of Montana Cowboy’s Baby to one of those who comments on this post. (Or one of the earlier titles according to your wish).

Jeannie Watt 25th Book, Twins and a Give Away!

Hello everyone! I’m so excited to announce the release of my 25th Harlequin, A Bull Rider to Depend On. It was really exciting to receive the notification, because I had miscounted. I thought A Bull Rider to Depend On was my 24th book. Math never was my strong point.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m posting an excerpt and giving a way an autographed copy of the book to someone who comments. Yay!

A little background before the excerpt. Tyler and Jess Hayward are bull riding twins. Tyler is the wild child and Jess is the responsible twin. Tyler has had a crush on Skye Larkin forever, but Skye never approved of his wild ways and eventually married one of his friends.

Now Skye is a widow and in deep financial trouble. Ty offers to help, only to discover that Skye thinks he encouraged her late husband to gamble away the ranch emergency fund. He’s just discovered that she blames him for the state she’s in and he’s not going to have it…

Skye started walking toward where Ty stood beside his truck, stony expression firmly in place. Her hair was pulled into a sophisticated looking bun thing instead of tumbling around her shoulders in dark waves as usual, and she wore a light blue dress with sensible heels.

He instantly surmised that she’d been to another bank and that things had not gone well. Ty told himself he didn’t care.

“Hello, Tyler.” She came to a stop a few feet away from him, just as she had the day before, and adjusted the position of the purse strap on her shoulder, keeping her fingers lightly curled around the black leather.

“Skye.”

“What brings you here today?”

Coolly spoken words, but Ty read uncertainty in her expression. Guilt, perhaps…?

“I’m for sure not here to offer you money.” He took a lazy step forward. “I want you to set the record straight.”

“What record?”

His voice grew hard as he said, “Where do you come off telling people that I’m trying to buy a clear conscience?”

Skye gaped at him. “What?”

He cocked his head. “What part needs repeating?”

“I never told anyone you were trying to buy a clear conscience.”

“Well, that’s the story going around, Skye. I wonder how it started?”  He took another step forward, doing his best to ignore the fact that she looked utterly confused. “I tried to help you, Skye. I wanted to help you. It had nothing—not one thing—to do with my conscience.”

Her chin went up at that. “Nothing?”

He shook his head, realizing then just how deeply engrained her dislike of him was. She was never going to believe anything but the worst of him and he wasn’t going to try to convince her otherwise. “I’m wasting my time here.” He turned and started back across the drive toward his truck, cursing his stupidity in driving to her ranch. The damage was done. And realistically, he’d never expected her to be able to make the situation better, but he wanted her to know what she’d done so that she didn’t do it again. Mission accomplished.

He jerked the truck door open, then, because this could well be the last time they ever spoke, he said, “For the record, I never gambled with your husband.”

An expression of patent disbelief crossed Skye’s face, but before she could speak, he said, “I know it’s really handy to blame me, since you’ve never cared for me. I’m a nice easy target to make you feel better about things, but here’s the deal—I don’t gamble.”

“Ever?”

“More like never as in…never.”

“You’re saying my husband lied to me.”

Sorry, Mason, but the roosters have come home to roost. “I’m saying he used me as an excuse.”

“You never partied with him.”

“Of course I partied with him. We drank together. A lot. But we never went gambling.”

She looked at him as if he was missing the point. “If Mason had stayed in at night, if he hadn’t drunk too much, then he wouldn’t have gambled. But would you leave him alone? No.”

“He never once said anything about wanting to stay in.” That was the honest truth. “He never acted like he wanted to stay in.” And Tyler hadn’t seen the danger of encouraging him to go out until it was too late. But Mason would have gone out no matter what. Tyler was convinced of that.

“Or you’re not presenting things the way they really were.”

Ty’s eyes narrowed. “Why would I present things any other way?” In other words, why would he lie?

“I don’t know. Guilt, maybe? Public image?”

“I’m not lying, Skye. I know you believe that I’m the reason you’re broke. I’m the reason Mason had hangovers. Yes, you asked me to leave him alone. No, I didn’t do it. But I didn’t encourage him to gamble and lose all of his money—or to gamble some more to try and make it all back. That was fully his thing.”

Tyler’s jaw tightened as he fought the urge to tell Skye the whole truth. To tell her what her husband was like on the road. To tell her that gambling wasn’t the only vice Mason indulged in.

But angry as he was, he couldn’t do that to her.

He also couldn’t handle being in her presence any longer. “You want to hide behind a lie? Fine. Have a good life, Skye.” The words came out bitterly, as if he cared in some way about what she thought, but he didn’t.

“You too,” Skye said in a stony voice, before walking past him, her heels tilting in the gravel as she made her way around his truck. She was almost directly in front of the vehicle when she stopped dead in her tracks.

Ty followed her line of vision and instantly saw the problem. One of her horses was down, next to the water trough, and from the way it was lying with its neck stretched out and its head at an odd angle, he didn’t think it was napping. He got back out of his truck at the same moment that Skye started running toward the pasture in her heels.

He might be angry. He might have been happy to never see Skye again. But no way was he going to drive away when she had a horse down.

The horse needed help even if Skye didn’t.

***

Yes, I know–Skye seems kind of cranky. She’s scared and hurting, but eventually she comes around.  Tyler becomes the man he needs to be and she learns to trust again. I just turned in Jess’s book and had as much fun writing the responsible twin as the wild twin. I guess that’s because I gave him a heroine to drive him nuts.

And to complete my twin theme–we just had twin calves! It was very touch-and-go saving them, since it was breach birth to begin with, but they’re thriving now. Here are the adorable little guys minutes after birth.

This is me in full farm gear!

Do you know any twins? If they were identical, did you find them hard to tell apart once you knew them? I’m looking forward to reading your answers! I’ll post a winner on Saturday.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015