Category: Behind the Book

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS–SETTING by CHERYL PIERSON


Are you a reader who loves descriptions and details of settings? Glittering ballrooms, the bone-chilling cold of a winter in the Rockies…or maybe the oppressive, killing heat of the desert? What about something idyllic, like a river or creek babbling through the woods? A beautiful rose garden, or even the ugly side of description—such as barren prison walls, or a Civil War battlefield?

 

 

 

 

It depends on the story, doesn’t it, and again, how much importance those descriptions have on the impact of the action, and the outcome of the story.

Let’s use a ball as our example.

If you’ve never been to an 1800’s ball—and none of us have—we need to know at least the barest details.

Five basic things we need to know are:
What is a ball?
Why is the ball being given?
Who will be invited?
When will the ball be given?
Where will it be held?

That’s enough for some stories. But the main question is—how important is the ball to the plot?

This is where layering comes in—and this one scene, and the details it contains—can be vital to what comes next, or even many scenes later.
So many things can happen at a ball!

Guests can meet for the first time, uninvited guests can show up, clothing can have significance, music can bring back memories, the food can even be poisoned!

Or, the ball can just be a ball, like the old saying attributed to Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…” –and if that’s the case, then tedious description and intricate detail is wasted because the ball is just a vehicle to get from one scene in the story to the next, and has no real underlying importance.

 


Describing the details of the clothing worn is sometimes distracting as it pulls us away from the action. We may be reading about a blue satin gown when we need to be concentrating on the man who lurks in the shadows. Too much description can bog down the reader and deaden the story rather than bring it to life.

Why? Because deep description of the things such as décor, clothing, and meals stop the action of the characters. The plot “takes a break” while our minds process all of the description of the scenery, the meals, the clothing. In this case, again, sometimes, “less is more” and we need to let the reader’s mind fill in much of that kind of detail.

Consider this: We know certain facts—a ball costs a lot of money to host. So we already understand that those who are invited are most likely people who move in the same upper crust social circles. Therefore, we know they, too, have money, so are appropriately dressed, arrive in style, and are schooled in proper societal customs. One excellent way to cut through the “red tape” of description (of things we already know) is to describe something that is out of place, or “not right” as this reminds us of what should be—and those details of descriptions we’re already aware of.

Perhaps an impostor at the ball commits a social faux pas without realizing it, alerting others to the fact she isn’t who she pretends to be. Maybe an unlikely hero comes to her aid quickly, offering an excuse, or correcting the mistake before others notice.


This scenario does several things for the story that simple description can’t achieve.

1. Points out the discrepancy in what should be and what is.
2. Allows our characters interaction, and possibly dialogue and observation, rather than the author filling the page with scenic description.
3. Allows the reader the opportunity to learn more about the characters and their personalities through this interaction, and can be a vehicle to reveal something of importance.
4. Can possibly further the action during such a scene rather than slowing it by miles of scenic description.

This is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for detailed descriptions of settings! We can’t call ourselves authors and take the “easy” way out by saying, “It was a ball like any other” by way of description, unless—we put it in the right context.

How about this: 
Jake looked around at the opulent ballroom –the surroundings were familiar in a tiresome, cloying way. Or…maybe was jaded. It was a ball like any other—except for one thing. Something that made him catch his breath and inwardly let go a streak of curses he’d love to shout to the skies. She was here. The woman he’d thought he’d never see again…

Well, anything can happen now, can’t it? Maybe she’s wearing an inappropriate shade of red amidst a sea of violet and blue. There are so many ways to make setting come alive without endless description that many readers become bored with and skim over.

If you read my last installment of this blog series about main characters, the examples I used from Shane (Jack Schaefer) and St. Agnes’ Stand (Tom Eidson) are also prime examples of description of setting as well as character.

But here’s another good one I really think is wonderful from Conagher, by Louis L’Amour. In this story, Evie from “back East” has come out west to marry a man with two children. Evie tries to make the best of things, but she lives in fear at first. The land is so different, After she’s been there a while, she finds there is a beauty in her surroundings she had to grow to love, in time.


As L’Amour describes the heroine’s (Evie) dismal hopelessness at the land her husband (Jacob) has brought her to, we wonder how she will survive. Yet, Jacob has plans, sees the possibilities that Evie cannot, or will not see. The underlying message is, “The land is what we make of it.”

As the story continues, she begins to appreciate the beauty of the prairie, while acknowledging the solitary loneliness of her existence. She plants a garden, nurturing the plants, and gradually she sees the farm being shaped into a good home from the ramshackle place she’d first laid eyes on.

The land is beautiful, but unforgiving. Her husband is killed in a freak accident, and for months she doesn’t know what has happened to him. She faces the responsibility of raising his two children from a previous marriage alone.

In her loneliness, she begins to write notes describing her feelings and ties them to tumbleweeds. The wind scatters the notes and tumbleweeds across the prairie. Conagher, a loner, begins to wonder who could be writing them, and slowly comes to believe that whomever it is, these notes are meant for him.

At one point, visitors come from back East. One of them says to Evie something to the effect of “I don’t know how you can stand it here.”
This is Evie’s response to her:

“I love it here,” she said suddenly. “I think there is something here, something more than all you see and feel…it’s in the wind.

“Oh, it is very hard!” she went on. “I miss women to talk to, I miss the things we had back East–the band concerts, the dances. The only time when we see anyone is like now, when the stage comes. But you do not know what music is until you have heard the wind in the cedars, or the far-off wind in the pines. Someday I am going to get on a horse and ride out there”–she pointed toward the wide grass before them–”until I can see the other side…if there is another side.”

The land, at first her nemesis, has become not only a friend, but a soulmate. L’Amour gives us this description through Evie’s eyes and feelings, not in writing about it from his perspective as the author.

Think of your own writing projects, and books you’ve read. What importance do you give setting in description, plot, even characterization? Within 40 pages of ‘Conagher’, we understand that the land, with all its wild beauty and dangers has become enmeshed in Evie’s character. She can’t leave it, and it will never leave her.

Endless, detailed description can’t do what L’Amour does through Evie’s eyes in a very few sentences. Do you have a favorite description of a setting you’ve read about or written about?

Welcome Guest – Caryl McAdoo!!!


The WILD WEST, UP CLOSE and PERSONAL!

Readers voted at Sweet Wild West Reads! They wanted more stories with covered wagons and cattle drives. The new multi-author Prairie Roses Collection was born with that poll almost a year ago. And the 2019 stories have just launched. Our heroines are the roses: Sadie, Remi, Hope, Grace, and Julia, and do they create a lovely bouquet of fiction for Mothers Day! The award-winning, best-selling western authors writing for Prairie Roses Collection are: Patricia PacJac Carroll, myself, Barb Goss, Indiana Wake, and Vickie McDonough. All the books are covered wagon stories.

My story, REMI, begins with a young woman’s seasickness aversion which influences her choice not to accompany her step-father and mother to the Riviera, but to travel west to California to search for the father she’s never met. In 1853, she and her bondwoman journey to Saint Joseph to join a wagon train. Readers first meet her in UNIQUELY COMMON, my April 2019 release with all the same characters.

What a blessing to go and ride along the same trail as the early, courageous pioneers traveling two thousand miles in wagon trains—a journey plagued with hardships and troubles—to settle the West. Last December, traveling from our home in Clarksville, Texas a full day to Saint Joseph, Missouri, I did just that! I couldn’t wait to see the Oregon/California Trail.

Once the pioneers crossed the Missouri, they were no longer in the U.S., but the government still helped, building forts along the way where wagon trains would rest a day or three, do their repairs and restock.

I found it so interesting to discover they sold food at cost or even gave it away free to those who couldn’t pay. They also sent the Army Corp to work on the passes such as at Scott’s Bluff.

It was an amazing sight and right when Remi and Edwina passed by here, the U.S. Army Corp were there!

I know that my 4300+ mile trip made Remi such a much better story. I pray it comes alive for you in the pages of my novel. I didn’t make it all peaches and cream. This wagon train suffered measles, water shortages—plenty of hardships, including fatal accidents. I hoped to portray the difficulties these settlers faced.

It flabbergasted me to come upon Fort Laramie in Wyoming. The main building, erected in 1851, has been completely refurbished in recent years. I rejoiced with Asher and Remi, Dusty and Edwina, and Ethan and Christina Cord as they saw it, too. A bit of civility in the wilderness. The government set their eyes on the manifest destiny of the nation being from sea to shining sea one day.

And then there was Independence Rock which for me, was a bit of a spiritual experience. Hundreds, thousands of those in the covered wagons stopped here and celebrated being at Independence Rock in early July because that meant they would make it over the Rockies before the winter storms! While at this heart-warming landmark, the men, women, and even some children carved their names all over this Independence Rock so they would be remembered.

Here’s an artist’s rendition I photographed at Independence Rock See how many wagon trains would be there to circle up a couple of celebratory days.

I touched the very rock my friends Remi and Samantha carved their names on in 1853. My characters are that real to me, and I believe they will be to you! I hope you’ll enjoy visiting all these historical sights in the West when you read REMI and the other Prairie Roses Collection stories!

Thank you so much, Karen, for the invitation to Petticoats & Pistols!

 

I’d like to gift THREE eBook copies of Remi to THREE WINNERS as it debuted on my birthday, May 3rd !

Leave a comment below for a chance to win!

REMI jacket copy: It isn’t within man to guide his own steps—or a woman. Caught between a wagon train and the deep blue sea, Agnes Remington Dalrumple, Remi for short, chooses the overland journey west over crossing the Atlantic with her mother and step-father. Though the introvert has never been on her own, she decides to go to California and try to find the father she’s never known. Thwarted at every turn, almost every effort is dashed until a widower’s thirteen-year-old daughter intervenes on her behalf. How can the headstrong young woman place herself under the responsibility of the girl’s father, a perfect stranger? But if she doesn’t, her journey ends right there in Saint Joseph, Missouri. On the Oregon/California trail, will pride and independence deter her from the destiny God has prepared?

Caryl’s bio: Award-winning author Caryl McAdoo prays her story brings God glory! Her best-selling novels are blessed with a lion’s share of 5-Star ratings! With forty-three-and-counting titles, she loves writing as well as singing the new songs the Lord gives her—listen to a few at YouTube. Sharing four children and eighteen grandsugars, Ron and Caryl live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County, in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.

Contact links for Caryl:

Welcome Guest Kari Trumbo!

When a cowgirl becomes a cow boss…

We all love reading about a fantastic hero. Sometimes, he even steals the show in romantic fiction. If you read westerns, the male lead is expected to be dashing, heroic, strong, capable, a good horseman, and he’s always good to his lady. But what about the heroine?

While the number of women who came west in the early-to-mid 1800’s was sparse (some figures claim it was as little as 10 to 1) by the late 1800’s, women were coming west for jobs and adventure. Just like their male counterparts. Women of the west were doing things that their sisters back east would swoon over.

In Along a Tangled Path, book 6 in my 7 book series, Brothers of Belle Fourche, Wilhelmina “Will” Galliger pretends to be a mute boy so, she can rope and ride her way to her own land. Her goal is her own ranch. My research tells me, though she is fictional, she was not alone. My character is very loosely based on Lucile Mulhall, from Charles Wellington’s Let ‘Er Buck: A Story of the Passing of the Old West. She is listed as the only woman to down a steer within the time limit at the Pendleton Round Up, among other things.

Women were allowed to have these roles, but they were rare. In the case of my heroine, she dresses as a man to avoid conflict. Of course, it adds a whole heaping helping when it’s discovered exactly who she is. Some women in the west hid who they were, such as Charely Parkhurst. Others, Like Lucile, did not.

 

One of the biggest freedoms women of the west enjoyed, was the ability to not only own land, but to retain it if their husband died or divorced them. This was not the case in other areas of the country. In Along a Tangled Path, Will was treated as chattel by her father as she was growing up and she associates happiness with ownership. She doesn’t want a husband, she wants land. Where she came from, land could be taken if a husband decided to divorce her. So, part of her motivation to act like a man is not only for respect, but because it suits her goal.

I love a strong heroine, but does that make the hero weak? I don’t think so. Charles was so much fun to write as Will’s foil. He’s trying to protect her secret and his heart all at once. He respects her, but it’s important he act as a traditional cowboy hero should and he must protect her above her secret.

For more information on cowgirls of the west, you can click HERE
And to find out more about Lucile you can click HERE  or HERE

Giveaway!! An autographed copy of Along a Tangled Path will be given away to one commenter. Let’s discuss: Do you love a strong female heroine or a more traditional Victorian heroine?

 

 

Kari Trumbo is a bestselling author of Christian and sweet romance. 

She writes swoony heroes and places that become characters with historical detail and heart.
She’s a stay-at-home mom to four vibrant children. When she isn’t writing, or editing, she home schools her children and pretends to keep up with them. 

Kari loves reading, listening to contemporary Christian music, singing when no one’s listening, and curling up near the wood stove when winter hits. She makes her home in central Minnesota, land of frigid toes and mosquitoes the size of compact cars, with her husband of over twenty years. They have two daughters, two sons, one cat, and one hungry wood stove.

 

You can find Kari at the following links:

Facebook      Bookbub     Website     Amazon                                   

Link to book

 

 

Updated: April 8, 2019 — 7:33 pm

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS–MAIN CHARACTERS! by Cheryl Pierson

Are you the kind of reader who likes to have a detailed description of the hero or heroine in romance books? What about other secondary characters? And do you feel the same way about characters in books of genres other than western historical romance, or romance in general?

To me, there is a big difference in how much character description is needed in romance novels versus other genres, and here’s why.

When we read romance, we put ourselves in the story, empathizing with both the heroine and the hero. Of course, we need enough description to let us be familiar with them both, but this might be a case of “less” being “more.”

In our personal lives, we have preferences in how our romantic “leading men” look, speak, behave, and so on. If our preferences are toward the tall, dark, and handsome hero, it will be hard for us to be vested in a story with a hero who’s short, fair, and ugly. Or one who has habits we personally don’t find attractive.

I knew a woman who didn’t like blond heroes. If he had blond hair on the cover, she’d color it brown or black with a marker. In the book, if “blond” was mentioned, she’d mark through it and write whatever color of hair she’d decided he needed. I asked her about the heroines. “They’re all me,” she answered. “I don’t pay attention to their descriptions.”

It made me wonder how many others felt this way.

Stephen King had mentioned at one time in his book ON WRITING that “description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

And in genres other than romance, character description is different and maybe more important, because the reader doesn’t have any preconceived expectations of the story, such as romance readers do.

When I taught creative writing classes, this description was one I used to illustrate how so much could be packed in to a short amount of words without being an info dump.

AMAZON LINK FOR ON WRITING BY STEPHEN KING

http://amzn.to/2EdXjVy

 

 

 

AMAZON LINK FOR ST. AGNES’ STAND BY TOM EIDSON

http://amzn.to/2T4bXZU

This is the beginning of St. Agnes’ Stand, by Thomas Eidson, who also wrote The Missing. Take a look:

He was hurt and riding cautiously. Thoughts not quite grasped made him uneasy, and he listened for an errant sound in the hot wind. His eyes were narrowed—searching for a broken leaf, a freshly turned rock, anything from which he could make some sense ofhis vague uneasiness. Nothing. The desert seemed right, but wasn’t somehow. He turned in the saddle and looked behind him. A tumbleweed was bouncing in front of the wild assaults from the wind. But the trail was empty. He turned back and sat, listening.

Over six feet and carrying two hundred pounds, Nat Swanson didn’t disturb easy, but this morning he was edgy. His hat brim was pulled low, casting his face in shadow. The intense heat and the wind were playing with the air, making it warp and shimmer over the land. He forced himself to peer through it, knowing he wouldn’t get a second chance if he missed a sheen off sweating skin or the straight line of a gun barrel among branches.

And then this, a couple of paragraphs down:

He had been running for a week, and he was light on sleep and heavy on dust and too ready for trouble. He’d killed a man in a West Texas town he’d forgotten the name of—over a woman whose name he’d never known. He hadn’t wanted the woman or the killing. Nor had he wanted the hole in his thigh. What he did want was to get to California, and that’s where he was headed. Buttoned in his shirt pocket was a deed for a Santa Barbara ranch. Perhaps a younger man would have run longer and harder before turning to fight and maybe die; but Nat Swanson was thirty-five years that summer, old for the trail, and he had run as far as he was going to run.

I absolutely love this. Can you feel that you’re right there with Nat Swanson as he’s riding? There are no wasted words, and this is just such an eloquent, masterful description of not only Nat, but the situation and the physical place he’s in as well as the dilemma he’s faced with.

Another excellent way of describing a character and setting the scene at the same time is from another character’s POV. This passage is from Jack Schaefer’s iconic classic, Shane—from the eyes of Bobby Starrett—when Shane first rides into his life.

AMAZON LINK FOR SHANE BY JACK SCHAEFER

http://amzn.to/2BWlIin

This is just the very beginning of the book—there is more physical description of Shane a few paragraphs later, but I chose this passage because it lets us know what’s going on in a few short sentences—and that is real talent.

He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89. I was a kid then, barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuck-wagon. I was on the upper rail of our small corral, soaking in the late afternoon sun, when I saw him far down the road where it swung into the valley from the open plain beyond.

In that clear Wyoming air I could see him plainly, though he was still several miles away. There seemed nothing remarkable about him, just another stray horseman riding up the road toward the cluster of frame buildings that was our town. Then I saw a pair of cowhands, loping past him, stop and stare after him with a curious intentness.

He came steadily on, straight through the town without slackening pace, until he reached the fork a half-mile below our place. One branch turned left across the river ford and on to Luke Fletcher’s big spread. The other bore ahead along the right bank where we homesteaders had pegged our claims in a row up the valley. He hesitated briefly, studying the choice, and moved again steadily on our side.

This is tough, because we’re seeing it through two “lenses”—Bobby is nine years old, and this is what he sees, but it’s filtered by the adult Bobby who’s now telling the story of what happened all those years ago.

In writing the story this way, the reader gets the full impact of experiencing the fears, the situation brings, the joy of having Shane there, and the anguish of his leaving all through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy, with the adult overview that lets us know that Shane was not a hero—but he was to Bobby and those small time settlers who needed one so desperately. Yet, leaving was the only thing he could have done and kept Bobby’s view of him untarnished and intact.

Because we don’t know how the story will end, and we don’t know what to expect, we are learning about Shane’s character right along with Bobby so we are actively looking for details and descriptors the author might give us along the way—it will affect our opinion of Shane and let us know if Bobby is a reliable narrator, and it affects the outcome of the story.

I bring this up because in romance, seldom does the description have such a direct effect on the story itself, unless our main characters have scars, afflictions, or disabilities that might have some direct bearing on the story and its outcome. 

So what do you think? Do you like a lot of description and detail about the WHR heroes you read about, or would you rather “fill in the blanks” for yourself?

As far as heroines go, most people I’ve talked to are not as concerned with her physical description (maybe because each person sees herself in the heroine?) but are more concerned with her personality traits—is she likable? Is she determined?

If she is not a fierce match for the hero, the story line is doomed.

And what about our hero? Though he can get away with more “questionable” traits, he has to be endowed with almost superhuman strength to overcome everything that’s thrown his way, and that is description that must be thoroughly detailed—not left to the reader’s interpretation.

STAMPEDE! ~ Pam Crooks

 

http://amzn.to/2TPWiJgIn UNTAMED COWBOY, my heroine, Carina Lockett, is a cattle woman who owns the C Bar C Ranch. Unfortunately, she is blackmailed by the father of her precious daughter for a huge sum of money, her entire herd of cattle. To get  her daughter back after she’s been kidnapped, Carina must drive the herd to Dodge City and pay the ransom with the sale money.

Enter Penn McClure, one of her ranch hands who has burning revenge for the man blackmailing Carina. Penn is only too happy to help Carina get to Dodge City and settle his score.

Now, my friends, cattle drives ain’t easy. All kinds of things can go wrong and usually do. One of the worst is a stampede. 

You wouldn’t think animals weighing a thousand pounds each would get scared of the littlest thing, but they do. A rabbit, a fox, a coyote–or even the strike of a match on a quiet night–could spook the herd and send them running. And that’s exactly what happens in UNTAMED COWBOY.

Here’s an excerpt:

The cattle had turned themselves around and were heading south, losing the ground they’d gained all day. He had to get to the front of them and turn the leaders so the rest would follow. Their hooves hammered against the ground, surrounded him with a deafening roar. Dust clouded his vision, thickened in his throat, but he lay over the gelding’s neck and rode even faster.

In the moonlight, those three thousand head of wild-eyed, horn-swinging cattle were a dark mass of terrifying power. Penn hoped fervently none of the men would be trampled. Or gored. One wrong move, and it could happen. It’d be easy, so easy. Dangerous for anyone, but especially a woman…

He closed his mind to Carina Lockett, to the worry that she was out here with him and the rest of her outfit. He pressed on, at last passing the thundering longhorns. Moving in amongst them, he swung his bullwhip again and again, aware if his horse found a prairie dog hole, or a hidden ravine, he’d go down, stomped to his death by those heavy hooves.

Yelling, relentless, he fought to turn the animals into the center of the herd. Then, to the side of him, there was Woollie, Stinky Dale and Jesse, and damn it, the she-boss, too, lashing her quirt, as desperate as the rest of them to get her herd to shift direction.

Finally, finally, the cattle began to veer into a wide circle, changing their straight run into a giant wheel of heaving cowhide. The switch got them bellowing to one another in confusion, and relief flowed through Penn at the sound, a sign their stampede was nearing an end. Gradually, they slowed and shuddered to an exhausted halt.

Penn halted, too. Breathing hard, he vowed vengeance on the night-herders responsible. Orlin Fahey was one, and he’d better have one hell of a good reason for those steers to run like they did.

The stampede is a crucial point in the book and sends Penn and Carina’s relationship in a whole new direction. A romantic one, of course!

Like with most all disasters, someone was responsible, and I hope you’ll read UNTAMED COWBOY to learn more about the stampede that made all hell break loose for Penn and Carina.

http://amzn.to/2TPWiJg Amazon

#kindleunlimited

 

Let’s Chat!  Have you ever done something that created havoc?  

Has someone in your family? Or a pet?

 

I’ll go first. This winter, while visiting my sister in New Mexico, our Golden Retriever had to potty at 2:00 am. I put him off for a solid hour, but by 3:00 am, the poor dog just had to go out. When I opened the door to their patio, their alarm system went off. Lights flashed and sirens peeled. Their dog barked. The kids got scared. My brother-in-law came running toward me in his underwear . . . I felt awful, and I was so embarrassed. Yikes!

Updated: April 11, 2019 — 1:29 am

More Real Life Inspiration

I intended today’s blog to be on The Pack Horse Library program, but that will have to wait for next month. As I sat trying to write that piece, life has intruded changing my focus.

My current fosters Noelle, Dash and Charlotte

For those of you who don’t know, rescuing animals has become a large part of my life since my boys left the nest. I foster dogs with Cody’s Friends Rescue, and I handle administration for a primarily cat rescue, A Voice for All Paws. Being involved with these organizations has brought me both incredible joy and reeling sorrow.

As with many authors, my non-writing loves often find their way into stories. Such is the case with the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy which I recently turned in. A character playing a major role bringing Cheyenne and Cooper together is a rescued German Shepherd. She is based on and named in memory of Dennis Pisarski’s amazing service dog, Penny Lane, both of whom inspired the seed idea that became this book.

Cooper Abbott is contacted by the local shelter to foster Penny. After her owner dies, Penny is dumped in the shelter. One of my favorite scenes in To Tame A Texas Cowboy is when Cooper receives a call from the shelter. For me, this scene speaks volumes about my hero.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When Penny arrived, we had to carry her outside, and then she cowered and whimpered until we took her back in. Now she’s quit eating. You know what that means.”

With her owner, the anchor in her life gone, unless something changed, Penny’s case would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of fear or depression, she’d hide in the back of her kennel. People would walk past her to more outgoing dogs. Those would be the lucky ones brought to meeting rooms to turn on the charm and find forever homes. But not Penny. Being withdrawn, she’d remain in her kennel, sinking further into herself, as her time slipped away or her health declined.

 “I need her out now, and since you’re currently without fosters, I started with you. Plus, you and Rowdy would do wonders for Penny,” Kelli said.

“If I weren’t moving, I’d gladly take her.”

“Moving? Where? When? How did I miss that news?”

After Cooper explained about his opportunity to take over the practice in Wishing, Kelli said, “She won’t make it here.” Kelli paused. “I’m making an exception. Because you’re a vet, we won’t worry about medical needs. Plus, Wishing’s only a couple hours away. You and Rowdy can work your magic on Penny, and when she’s ready for adoption you can bring her back. Or, maybe you’ll find an adopter in Wishing.”

“Then sure, I’ll foster her. I’m at the clinic, but I can be there in a few.”

Fifteen minutes later, Cooper knelt inside the kennel and stared at Penny Lane curled into a tight ball in the far corner. His hands tensed around the leash he held, but other than that he remained still, giving her time to adjust to his presence. Most dogs would be all over him by now. Jumping, barking, begging for attention, but not this girl. She’d already given up.

“Hello, Penny. I hear you’re having a rough time.”

The dog’s eyes opened, but she remained motionless. The trauma and loss she’d endured shone in her wide brown eyes.

He inched closer, watching for signs of aggression, but she’d pulled so far inward, she barely acknowledged him. She just plain didn’t care. He continued working closer. “Don’t give up, sweetheart. I know you’re missing your human, but there’s someone else out there for you. Someone who’ll love you, and wants, maybe needs you, too.”

Penny lifted her head the tiniest bit to stare at him. The look in her warm brown eyes was different than it had been a minute earlier, more haunted now, but with something else.

She thinks you’re a hypocrite. You talk the talk but aren’t big on walking that walk yourself.

Cooper shut out the mocking voice. “I’ve lost someone, too. I know it hurts like hell, but you can’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.”

Olivia’s face flashed in his mind. Oval and delicate, framed with long blond hair and big blue eyes. Giving, and sweet as ripe Texas peaches in July, she’d had so much to offer him and the world.

They’d had their lives planned. After a small intimate wedding and a quick honeymoon, they’d return to College Station. She’d get the SeizureReader into production and run the budding company. Then they’d focus on saving the money for his practice where he could offer rescues and those who couldn’t afford it, reasonably priced vet care. They’d both be doing what they loved. They’d have each other, and eventually a family of their own.

But life hadn’t gone as planned. Two years, and yet at times, it felt as if they’d been together yesterday.

“You’ll get through this, Penny.” Cooper hooked the leash to Penny’s collar, slid his arms under her middle, and scooped her up. “Let’s get go home.”

Now it’s your turn. To be entered in the random drawing to win the picture frame and To Catch A Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about an animal who’s changed your life for the better.

 

Please remember, Adopt! Don’t Shop! For more information on Cody’s Friends Rescue or A Voice for All Paws or to see their adoptable pets, click on the organization name. If you’re not in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can click Petfinder and enter your zip code to find adoptable animals in your area.

 

 

 

 

Updated: April 2, 2019 — 7:24 pm

From Hero to Character

One of the questions, as authors, we get asked a lot is how do we find our characters? Do they come from real people? Are we people watchers? Do we just make them up? Are there research books with characters to help develop yours? Do they come from the headlines?

The answer is simple … all of the above. I use a combination, as most writers do. I probably shouldn’t tell you, but sometimes I’ll use the name for a character of someone I really don’t care about who have similar traits. However, most of the time, it comes from someone I like.

In the first book of the Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series, “The Troubled Texan”, I knew I wanted a strong lawman, with a heroic past. A friend of mine came to mind. In our bowling and coaching days, I knew his mother, father and sister. Although I’d only met him a few times, he was definitely one of those people you’d always want for a friend.

Billy Hobbs was from my hometown and graduated from the same high school as my husband and both of our daughters. He was a two-time All-American linebacker for the Texas A&M Aggies, and an NFL linebacker for six seasons. Cotton Bowl MVP, Panhandle Sports Hall of Famer and National Defense Player of the Year, only begins to name some of his honors. He was selected in the second-round draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to become captain for New England and New Orleans Saints.

After his football career, of 25 years, he surrendered to full-time Christian ministry to preach, work with youth, do mission work in Africa, working with orphans and the many needed fellowships in prisons, even creating a vitamin supplement for the disadvantaged. He started the Mercy Foundation; and, where I knew him best, he ran the Faith City Mission here in Amarillo. His foundation and Faith City Mission are family shelters for those in need of a space to go whether it’s single moms and their children or families who need help getting back on their feet. After many years of doing such wonderful, selfless work, he was killed in a motorcycle-car accident in 2004 at the tender age of 57.

At his funeral one of his closest friends, said Billy applied what he had learned in football to his work in the ministry. “Hobbs took the same competitive spirit to help people.”

What a perfect model for my character, the Sheriff of Kasota Springs and his friend, who is also a deputy sheriff working with the Joint Task Force. They were raised in the same town and went to college together, but in my story it was at the University of Texas, not Texas A&M. Deuce went on to play for the Steelers, while Brody went into law enforcement, later encouraging Deuce to do the same.

Now you can see why I selected Billy, a real person who I admire greatly, as my role model for Deuce Cowan. Although, Deuce had to quit his football career due to an injury and became a defensive line coach, his true love, like Billy’s, was people. To help Deuce, law enforcement became his true love; particularly, since his father was a lawman.

Of interest, I took a headliner news story and used it as the reason Deuce’s love interest in the first book came to Kasota Springs to hide out in a small town; not knowing that her once BFF Deuce Cowan was sheriff.

Names sometimes come easy, other times very hard. For instance, one of my characters in both books came from a family in our anthology “Give Me a Cowboy”. Mesa LeDoux, who like most of my characters are founding family members from our anthologies, is a Johnson, my mother’s family name. Lola Ruth is her BFF. Ruth is my mama’s name and Lola is my mother-in-law. Clara at Pumpkin’s Café is named from my deceased sister, Clara, who was nicknamed Pumpkin. In “Out of a Texas Night”, I even use the first name of one of our P&P faithful readers. Now you’ll have to read the book to see if you can recognize who it is.

So now you have a little insight on how we come about in developing our characters, not just their name but their personalities and traits.

I’m working on the next book in the series, tentatively titled “Deep in a Texan’s Heart” and it’s Sylvie Dewey’s story. You might remember her Aunt from one of our anthologies, so she also comes from one of the founding families; and has a fantastic backstory. In this book, there’s a cooking club made up of retired teachers, and they are real educators I know who taught either my daughters, grandkids or are close friends, so get ready for some great first names only and fantastic holiday recipes in the back of the book. And, a teaser—the story is ripped from the headlines!

Have you ever had a career or hobby that changed you for the better?

To one reader who leaves a comment, I’ll send you an eBook of either “The Troubled Texan” or “Out of a Texas Night” from Amazon.

Updated: April 1, 2019 — 3:15 pm

It Started With a Song

Howdy!

Did you know that I have often referred to the book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, as my “musical?”  No, not like a musical you might see on television or the movies — if you open up the book, it doesn’t play a song, and yet, in many ways, I’ve often thought of it as my musical.  Interestingly, it is also based on a myth.

Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/SOARING-EAGLES-EMBRACE-Legendary-Warriors-ebook/dp/B074LWHB7W/ref=sr_1_3?crid=32UQUEUDYDX91&keywords=soaring+eagle%27s+embrace+by+karen+kay&qid=1552252142&s=digital-text&sprefix=SOARING+EAGLE%27S+EMBRA%2Caps%2C171&sr=1-3-catcorr&tag=pettpist-20

A rather long link, huh?

SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, from the Legendary Warriors Series, is inspired by a myth of a hunter and a daughter of the Star People.  The book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE actually starts with the hero and heroine and the legend as it is told in Native American lore.  Interestingly, I found this myth not in just one tribe — but several — and the thing is, it was told almost (but not quite) identically, tribe to tribe.  The legend I’m about to tell you is from the Shawnee.

I believe that the name of the hero (it’s from a children’s book that I’m quoting) is Red Hawk, and the name of the book is RED HAWK AND THE SKY SISTERS by Gloria Dominic and Charles Reasoner.  Again, this legend is repeated in several different tribes — although the hero’s name is often different.

Red Hawk is a great hunter.  But he is puzzled because he sees the same print of a circle in the grasses of the prairie each time he goes to hunt.  It is a perfect circle, but there are no paths leading up to it — or going away from it.  There is evidence that something was there and made the circle — but how?  Red Hawk decides to spend the night, hiding himself from view.

51GoIbPuXOL._SL110_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-sm,TopRight,10,-13_OU01_[1]And so he does.  He discovers by hiding himself, that a basket gently falls to the earth and that there is singing from feminine voices.  As the basket comes to land softly on the earth, three sisters alight from the basket and dance around it in a circle.  Red Hawk watches this for many nights until one night he realizes that he  has fallen in love with one of the sisters — the youngest I believe.  And so, once again hiding himself, he waits until the sisters are about to get into the basket and go back into the sky — but suddenly he jumps out from his hiding place and captures the woman of his heart.

They marry and are happy, but she misses her home in the sky (she is a star).  They have a  child and she wishes to take the child and return to visit her home in the sky.  Our hero lets her go, but keeps the child with him, hoping that the child will be enough to cause her to return.  When she doesn’t return, our hero again captures her, and she falls in love with him all over again and they live happily ever after.

th[1]I did find that the ending varies a bit from tribe to tribe, and I’m uncertain of how this book ends the story — I have this book, but of course, needing to find it for this post, the book eludes me.

 

Now, what does this have to do with music and with a song?  Well, maybe a lot.  This book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, starts out with a song and the legend, and it ends with a song, incorporating, also, the legend.

In my youth, I used to watch Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald movies on television.  I was enchanted with them, and with their music, which is operetta.  Not full opera, but a light taste of it. My characters, I must admit, are drawn from both Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s personalities.  Sometime in the future I might do a blog on these two people.  They were in love, but never married, and it appears as if they were prevented from marrying.  Perhaps that’s only a theory, but there appears to be some truth to it.

But that aside, I thought I’d leave you all a link to some great Native American music.  The group is Brule’.  This is a band of the Sioux tribe.  It is extremely inspiring music, and so I’d leave you this for today.  Please enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtwFkV-C6_A

I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE today to some lucky blogger, so I would encourage you to leave a comment — please see the Giveaway Guidelines over to the right here for our rules that govern giveaways, and be sure to come back in a few days to see if you are a winner.

What do you think?  Is it possible to create a musical with text?

Updated: March 11, 2019 — 7:34 am

It’s In the DNA

I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but I’ve had some strange things happen during the writing of a book.  I once turned a manuscript into my editor at the same time another writer turned in hers.  Oddly, enough, our protagonists shared the same first names and professions.  There were also many other similarities throughout our manuscripts, and all had to be changed.

Another time I was hiking a trail in Mammoth when I met a geologist who was the spitting image of the geologist hero in the book I was working on.  Even weirder, his first name was Damian and I’d named my hero Damon. Close enough, right?

But the strangest thing that happened occurred recently. I’d been toying with the idea of taking a DNA Ancestry test for quite some time, so my daughter decided to gift me with one for Christmas.  The results were pretty much what I expected, with one surprise.   It turns out that the outlaw Jesse James and I share a common ancestor.  

The timing was especially weird since Jesse James plays a part in the book I’m currently working on. Come to think of it, it’s not the first time Jesse James has popped up in one of my books, and I can’t count how many blogs I’ve written about the outlaw.

That’s because Jesse is a fun person to write about.  Not only was he controversial, he had both a light and dark side. The son of a Baptist minister, he was known to pass out press releases to witnesses at his holdups and had no qualms about exaggerating his height.  He might also be the only person on record who took a gang on his honeymoon. I don’t know what his bride did while he and his gang robbed a stage.  Maybe she went shopping.

Jesse James lived for only thirty-four years, but there was never a dull moment.  He was a Confederate guerrilla, was shot in the chest on two separate occasions and once overdosed on morphine. He also claimed to have murdered seventeen people.

Jesse went by many aliases, but his nickname was Dingus because he shot off the tip of his finger while cleaning his pistol.  He wrote glowing articles about his gang, saying that they robbed the rich and gave to the poor, though all indications are that they kept the spoils to themselves.

Far as I know, he was also the first person to prove that housework can kill.  While tidying up his house, he was fatally shot by his new hire Bob Ford in the back of the head. 

I can’t tell you what it was about Jesse James that first caught my interest.  I can’t even tell you why this writer, who’s allergic to horses, writes Westerns.  All I can say, is that it must be in my DNA.

Have any of you had your DNA tested?  If so, were there any surprises that you’re willing to share

 

“This book charms.”  Publishers Weekly

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Updated: February 20, 2019 — 10:37 am

Old Spanish Mines by Kristy McCaffrey and a Give Away!

We are thrilled to welcome guest author Kristy McCaffrey to the Junction today.  Kristy will be giving away a copy of her new book Rosemary to one lucky commenter!

Long before the westward expansion of the United States, the Spanish were present. Markings on a canyon wall in central Utah consisting of a cross symbol bear the date ‘1667’. Hieroglyphics and pictographs originally thought to be placed by Native Americans are actually markers along the Spanish Trail, which led from Mexico to the Uinta Mountains (in Utah) and beyond. This trail was the main link between Mexican and Spanish outposts, and it’s posited that they were religious outposts. The Spanish presence lasted well into the 1800’s, when packs of Mexicans were reportedly leaving the Uinta Mountains laden with gold.

Until the 1800’s, the tales of the Spanish gold mines were the subject of Native American history, with few white men knowing of the mines. The Spaniards used the Native Americans as slave labor, and after many years of oppression it’s believed that they revolted and killed most of their Spanish captors. Supposedly the Native Americans returned the gold bullion to the earth and sealed it in the very mines from which it had come.

Thomas Rhoades, a close assistant to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, was one of the first white men to fully understand the implications of the Spanish mines. Young had become a religious mentor to a Ute Indian named Chief Walkara, who spoke of a secret cache of gold in the Uinta Mountains. The chief agreed to give the gold to the church, and Rhoades was selected to transport it to Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, the Indians refused to remove the gold, believing it to be cursed. But it was easy for Rhoades to transport since it was already mined and left in bullion form. His first trip was said to have lasted two weeks, yielding more than sixty pounds of pure gold. For several years, Rhoades continued to transfer gold until, in 1887, he discovered additional mines located off Indian ground. This spurred interest in the lost Spanish gold mines, since it appeared there wasn’t just one mine to be found but many.

Prospector With Donkey

 

 

Searching for the mines could be deadly. In the early years, stories circulated of prospectors being shot and killed, often by Native

Americans protecting the sacred mines. Even as recently as 1990 there have been reports of modern-day prospectors being fired upon as a warning by Native Americans who protect the land near historic mining operations.

 

Old-timers in the Uinta Mountains have claimed there are seven mines lined with pure gold that supplied the Aztecs, serving as the basis for the seven golden cities of Cibola sought by early Spanish explorers.

In ROSEMARY, Book 11 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, Rosemary goes in search of the fabled Floriana mine in the wilderness of the Utah Territory in 1884. While The Floriana is a fictitious mine, I based it on tales of the time.

Rosemary Brennan is recovering from the loss of her husband five months prior in a devastating mine accident that took the lives of nearly all the men in Wildcat Ridge. The mine owner, Mortimer Crane, has given the widows an ultimatum—find husbands or he will evict them from their homes and businesses. Desperate to keep the assay office that her deceased husband had managed, she heads into the hills in search of an old Spanish mine called The Floriana in the hope she can lay claim to a bonanza of gold.

 

Ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal Miles McGinty arrives in Wildcat Ridge to pay his respects to Jack Brennan’s widow. He and Jack had a history, and Miles is heartsick over the loss of the young man he had come to think of as a brother. When he learns of Rosemary’s problems with the piggish Crane, he will do anything to help her—even offering marriage. But when it becomes clear that Crane knew of Jack’s criminal past and was blackmailing him over it, Miles must decide whether to tell Rosemary the truth, because doing so may drive her away. And to his surprise, Miles has fallen in love with his new wife.

A sweet romance set in 1884 Utah Territory.

Available at One commenter will win a digital copy of Rosemary!

 

Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion, along with contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. Kristy holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, but writing has been her passion since she was very young. Her four children are nearly grown and gone, so she and her husband frequently pursue their love of travel to the far corners of the world. Kristy believes life should be lived with curiosity, compassion, and gratitude, and one should never be far from the enthusiasm of a dog. An Arizona native, she resides in the desert north of Phoenix. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

 

(Photos courtesy of Deposit Photos)