Category: New Releases

Shelley Shepard Gray: The Story Behind The Book

We’re very happy to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to the corral for a visit. She’s going to give us an interesting overview and the background of her newest book Love Held Captive

 

Every so often, I come across something while doing research that surprises me. Discovering that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp on Johnson Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, was one of those things!

Months before that discovery, I had been making dinner with my husband and told him about my idea for a series. I wanted to focus on a band of brothers who made a vow to be there for each other after the War Between the States. One idea led to another, and by the time we sat down to eat, I had the outline for a three book series.  The leader of this group was Captain Devin Monroe. I knew he was going to be the heart and the soul of this group of men. So well respected, he was almost larger than life. All of that was good. I just couldn’t figure out how the men had formed their bond. I came up with several scenarios, covering everything from being neighbors to meeting during basic training, to forming a bond during specific battles.

Then I discovered the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. During my research, I read one thing that stuck with me-that the best of the Confederacy was being guarded by the worst the Union had. I learned that these officers were carted up to Sandusky, Ohio by train and marched across the ice to Johnson’s Island. Then, these generals and captains and first lieutenants were essentially left to govern themselves. They made gardens, they whittled, and they cared for each other. One group of men even wrote a play. I knew right then and there that I had my men’s bonding experience!

Of course, no matter how much it differed from other encampments, it was still a POW camp. Dozens of men died while being incarcerated and the officers buried them on the island. When the war ended, groups from several southern states raised funds so the men would have tombstones. The cemetery is still there.

Right before I began writing the first book in the series, my husband and I drove up to Sandusky and visited a Veterans Home. A kind gentlemen took us up to the third floor of the museum there and showed us the many artifacts that remained from the camp. Then, after a few wrong turns and more than a couple dead ends, we finally found the Confederate cemetery. The site of it took my breath away.

People ask all the time how much research I feel I need to do for my historicals. For me, the story and the characters always come first…but the experience of actually being where my characters might have walked? Well, for me, it was priceless.

Love Held Captive is the last book in my Lone Star Hero’s Love Story series. It features both Captain Devin Monroe’s and Major Ethan Kelly’s stories. It takes place in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and on Johnson’s Island. At its heart, it’s a romance about two men and two women who truly deserve their happiness. But it’s also about perseverance and grit. And about surviving, forging friendships, and clinging to hope in even the darkest of circumstances.  I hope you will enjoy the book.

Here’s the link to the website, so you can get a copy in your favorite format.

http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/love-held-captive/

We are very pleased that Shelley is giving one reader, who leaves a comment,

a boxed set of her series.

Winnie’s Winner!!

 

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to stop by and talk elevators with me.  It was great to hear some of your personal elevator-related stories.

As for the giveaway, I threw the names in a hat and the one I pulled out was

Brady Bailey

Congratulations Brady! Contact me via my website or Facebook with your mailing info and I’ll get the book right on out to you.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Pre-Order Link

 

 

Updated: October 10, 2017 — 9:49 pm

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — An excerpt

Howdy!

And Good Morning!  How are you doing today?  Well, I hope.

My latest release, WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, is just out in e-book format.  To honor this occasion I’m giving away two e-books of the book.  So please come on in and leave a comment, join in the discussion and automatically you are entered into the drawing.  Do read the Giveaway Guidelines off to the right here — these govern our give-aways.  And please do come back either tomorrow evening or Thursday evening to see if you are one of winners.  I rely on your doing so.

I must admit to really loving this new cover.  What do you think?

Today, I thought I’d open with the blurb for the new book release, and then an excerpt.  Hope you enjoy!

Wolf Shadow’s Promise

by Karen Kay

Legendary Warriors, Book 4

She saved his life. The only way he can save hers is to deny their forbidden passion…

When eight-year-old Alys Clayton saved the life of a young Blackfeet Indian, she had no idea her own life would be forever changed. To honor her bravery, Moon Wolf pledged his heart to her, vowing to marry her. But they were both too young…then.

Returning to Fort Benton in the Northwest Territory fifteen years later, Alys again encounters the deeply handsome hero who had once set her heart afire. But Moon Wolf has changed. He has become the legendary Wolf Shadow, a warrior intent on helping his people’s struggle against those who would destroy them.

Because a precious jewel like Alys warrants more from a man than risking death at every turn, Moon Wolf battles his desire for her, denying her what she needs most. But Alys has other ideas. She is determined he will not walk his chosen path alone.

Yet, how can their love survive when they are surrounded by enemies determined to destroy them, in a world where their love is forbidden?

This book has been previously published.

Warning: Sensuous romance that might renew a love that was written in the stars. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, an excerpt

by Karen Kay

 

Fort Benton on the Missouri River

1857, Northwest Territory

 

“Two and two equals…?” The teacher slapped the ruler against the blackboard, the wap of the wooden stick an unspoken threat. The teacher—who, by invitation, had only recently arrived here—stood frowning, arms crossed at her waist. “Young lady,” the teacher threatened as she took a menacing step forward and unfolded her arms, “answer me.”

Still the young Indian girl, standing at the head of the class, didn’t make a sound. Head down, she stared fixedly at her feet.

Looking at the child, who was no older than herself, Alys Clayton felt as if her heart might break. Personally, she had never understood why the wild Indians had been brought to this school. Her mother said the whole matter was an experiment by their Indian agent, Alfred J. Vaughan, to see if the Indians could be civilized, whatever that meant.

But the project was doomed to failure because Indians didn’t learn from this kind of teaching.

At least that’s what her mother had told her: that the Indians of the plains had not been brought up with the same books and stories as the white man; that the Indians had their own legends and tales, their own way of teaching, of doing things. Indians were close to the land, were free, or at least they were supposed to be. Alys’s mother had also said, and Alys agreed, that the Indians would be better off if left independent which, Alys decided, must mean “left alone.”

So, if all these observations were true, why was their teacher making an example of this poor child? What did it matter if the girl could or could not add the two plus two on the chalkboard? Alys knew that if she were to approach the girl and promise her four beads while giving her only three, the young girl would know the difference.

Tears streamed down the youngster’s face as she endured not only the silent threat of the teacher but the sneers and scoffing of her “fellow classmates” too.

Something should be done. Such dealings were not right. Yet Alys felt helpless. She was only eight years old, a child herself. What good was she against a teacher—against the taunts of the others?

Oh, no. Alys caught her breath.

The teacher—an overly skinny, sickly-looking woman, had raised the ruler as though she might hit the girl, causing the youngster to put a hand over her eyes as though to shield them.

Then the worst happened. Down came the ruler, down across the Indian girl’s arm.

The child didn’t cry out, didn’t even flinch, although she whimpered slightly as tears streamed down her face.

The teacher shouted out a few more unmentionable words. Still the young girl remained silent.

“I’ll teach you to sass me, you heathen,” the teacher hissed, while Alys tried to make sense of what the teacher had said. The young girl hadn’t uttered a word.

Wap! Another slap across the girl’s arms. The teacher raised her arm for another blow.

It never came.

In a blur of buckskin and feathers, a young Indian boy, the same one who had been at their school for about a week, burst into the classroom, putting himself between the youngster and the teacher. In his hand, he wielded a knife.

The class went from a mass of jeers and prankish catcalls to abrupt silence.

Where had the boy come from so suddenly? And the knife? Where had he obtained that? It was well known that the wild Indians, even the children, were relieved of their weapons upon entering the fort.

Yet there was no mistaking that knife or the boy’s intent.

Good, thought Alys.

Immediately, the teacher backed up, but in doing so, she tripped over a wastebasket, losing her balance and falling into the trash can, bottom first.

Alys couldn’t help herself. She laughed.

It was the only sound in an otherwise silent classroom. No one looked at her, however. Everyone appeared…stunned.

The teacher’s face filled with color, her hands clenched over the top of the basket. “You…you savage. You pushed me—”

“This one,” the Indian responded, pointing to himself, “has not touched you. But give me good reason to”—he waved his knife in front of her—“and I will.”

The teacher spat ugly words deep in her throat, before she uttered loudly, “I’ll have your skin for this, young man.”

“Humph.” The boy approached the teacher, then said, “And I will have your hair.”

It took a moment for his meaning to register, but as the boy swung out his knife, taking hold of the teacher’s tight bun, she screamed. Whack! Off came the bun, harmlessly falling into the youngster’s hand.

“You heathen, why, I’ll…” In an almost superhuman effort, the teacher jumped up, out of the basket. The boy quickly grabbed hold of the Indian girl, and pulling her after him, fled toward the classroom’s only window.

That was all it took for the other youngsters in the room to come alive. Insults and threats reverberated through the early morning air, while the two fugitives made the best escape they could. Boys, almost all of them of mixed heritage themselves, suddenly sprang up from their chairs, leaping after the two runaways, who had by this time cleared the window.

The entire school became a mass exodus as student after student bolted out the door, out the window, chasing after the pair.

Alys, however, arose from her seat at a more leisurely pace, strolling slowly and thoughtfully toward the doorway of the tiny cabin which served as the schoolhouse. Fingering her soft auburn curls as she moved, she trudged home, concluding that school had been let out for the day.

Poor Indian kids, she mused. Wasn’t it enough that the children had been taken away from their family to be “educated”? According to her mother, the townspeople weren’t making it easy on these wild ones either, scolding them and making fun of them. Who would want to stay amidst such hatred? Alys asked herself.

Her thoughts troubled, Alys left the schoolhouse and slowly trudged toward her home.

Her house, a wooden structure and one of the nicer homes in the fort, lay situated toward the rear of the town, away from the river and isolated from most of the fort’s more rambunctious activities. It was a relatively quiet spot, a location her father had personally selected before he had passed away almost four years ago.

That Alys’s mother had refused to return east after her husband’s passing had been the fort’s greatest gossip during the first few years after his death, at least for the few white women who had come west with their husbands.

There were only two types of unmarried women on the frontier, or so it was said: Indians and the hurdy-gurdy girls. Her mother had been asked which one she was.

And it hadn’t mattered that her mother had helped found this town, right alongside her father. Nor had the richness of her purse given her immunity. As it was in many small towns, there wasn’t much to provide gossip, leaving Alys’s mother to supply fodder for the wagging tongues, a circumstance that had effectively isolated her, and her youngster, from the community.

As Alys made her way through the fort, she wondered what her mother would say about the events of this day, knowing that it was her nature to blame the townspeople, not the Indians. Hadn’t her mother often commented on the unchristian-like behavior of the few white women in this town? Hadn’t she herself observed that those here, more oft times than not, made up the grievances they complained about?

Why? Alys Clayton could little understand it.

She only wished there were something she could do, some way to help. If only she knew where the two Indians were right now, she would offer them kindness and hope. Yes, she decided, with all the naïveté of a young girl her age. She would be kind to them, make friends with them, show them that they could trust her.

Why, she would…

What was that? There is was again, a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. Buckskin, feathers—two small arms and legs? There in the bushes? She turned to look.

A knife suddenly appeared out of nowhere, pressing close into her throat, and a hand covered her mouth as arms slipped about her waist, dragging her backward, toward that bush.

“You cry out…I kill you,” threatened a young male voice.

Alys looked up into a set of the deepest, blackest eyes she had ever seen. She nodded.

The dusty scent of the boy’s skin, the dirt on his hands assailed Alys until she thought she might gag. It wasn’t that the smell was unpleasant, it was more that he held her mouth too tightly. She squirmed.

“Be still.”

Two young boys flew past them, more footsteps followed, more shuffling, the pounding of boots, of adult feet striking the ground, rushing by.

Alys struggled in the boy’s arms. She wanted to let him know that she was a friend, that she would help him. It was useless, however. The boy held his hand too securely over her lips.

Gunshots in the distance caught Alys’s attention, and then came more shouts and hurrying footsteps. Gunshots? Surely no one intended physical harm to these two, did they?

She had to do something. Quickly, Alys took stock of where she was. Over to her right was her home—within running distance—and beside her house was the secret place, that place known only to Alys and her mother…

It was a special locale, a part of Alys’s heritage that might prove to be the salvation of these two outcasts, if she could make them understand. Could she?

She had to try. Motioning toward the house, Alys pointed at the two Indians, then flapped her hands like wings, trying to show an image of birds, flying away free. Would he understand?

The young boy followed her hand motions for a moment, then tugged at her to remain still. He looked away.

Alys tried again. Point to the house, to the Indians, a bird flying away free. Once more, over and over. It took a few more gestures before the boy frowned, looking down at Alys, at her hands, at the house.

More voices, more footsteps coming toward them.

Alys gestured again.

With a stern frown at her, the boy loosened his grip, allowing Alys to whisper, “I know a secret way out of the fort.”

Would he believe her? Did he understand she meant to help him?

Dark eyes glared into her own.

“It’s at the side of my home.” She motioned toward the house.

“There is nothing there, white girl; a house, a wall, no more. Do you try to trap us?”

Alys didn’t say a word. And perhaps it was her silence that accounted for her redemption.

He asked, “How we escape there?”

“In our root cellar,” Alys was quick to answer, “my mother’s and mine.  There is a hidden tunnel.”

“What is this…root cellar?”

Alys pointed to a set of bushes that almost, but not quite, hid the wooden doors of the cellar. “There,” she said. “See it? It goes down to a passage underground. It’s like a cave. It leads to the hills.”

She could see him hesitate, watched as indecision played across his features. At last, though, he volunteered, “You show us.”

Alys nodded.

They waited until the approaching footsteps faded away. Then he prodded her forward, and she fled as fast as her small legs would carry her, on and on toward the side of her yard, with the two Indians following close on her heels.

“Here.” She pushed her way into the bushes and pulled at the doors of the cellar. They wouldn’t give. She almost cried.

The Indian boy came to her rescue, tugging on the doors and hauling them up.

“Hurry.” She motioned to the two of them to enter. Quickly, they did as she bid, fleeing down into the cellar, Alys coming in after them and dragging the doors shut behind her. Instantly, all was darkness inside, but it didn’t bother Alys. She merely sighed in relief.

“This is trap,” the boy said, his knife coming once more to Alys’s neck. Maybe he didn’t like the darkness, Alys considered.

“No,” she insisted, unafraid. “I’ll show you.”

Lifting a rug on the floor, Alys uncovered a small earthen mound. Brushing the dirt away, Alys pointed to a meager trapdoor.

Pulling on the door, she glanced up toward the boy, barely able to make out his features in the darkness.

“Come,” she said and dropped down to the ladder. Down and down she climbed, her two charges following.

Plunging to the stone floor of the cavern below, Alys fumbled in the dark until she found the lantern her mother always kept there. Checking first to make sure it was working properly, she lit the wick, instantly throwing a shadow of light throughout the cave. Instinctively, she took the hand of the Indian boy.

“Hold hands,” she instructed and began to lead the two of them through the tunnels. The darkness of the caves, their earthy smells and coolness had never bothered Alys. They were a part of her family, a part of her.

She and her mother came here often, hunting a treasure that had been lost here long ago. Although if Alys were honest, she would admit that sometimes she sought out the comfort of the caves for pleasure alone, these caverns being a legacy to her from her father.

“If you lead us back to…that village, white girl, I will kill you.”

“I know.” Alys hesitated. “But I won’t. I promise you.”

He let out a snort. “The vow of a white girl.”

“The word of Alys Clayton.” She might not be aware of it, but Alys lifted her chin. “Not all white people are bad.”

He didn’t say a word, though another menacing growl escaped his throat.

Well, what did it matter anyway? She would show him. Wasn’t it what her mother had always told her, that actions, not words, were important? It took an hour or so of careful travel, but she didn’t falter in her step. She knew the way.

The tunnel climbed slowly, gradually, until at last, up ahead, she could see light, hear the rush of a waterfall.

Ah, the great falls, behind which lay the tunnel’s entrance. This was her most favorite spot in the world, isolated, untouched and unspoiled. No one else knew of the caverns or the beauty of these cliffs either, as far as she knew, since they were hidden on all sides by the height of the hills. At least, Alys silently corrected herself, no other white man knew of them.

Alys led their party underneath the falls, out onto the rocks and into the bright sunshine, allowing the two young people to adjust their eyesight to the light before she stated, “I don’t know where your people are, but I reckon you’ll be able to find them from here.”

The boy looked around him and inhaled a deep breath before glancing back at Alys and staring intently at her.

Then, without any expression on his face whatsoever, he murmured, “What strange manner is this? A white girl who keeps her word?”

Alys stiffened her spine before she responded, “I told you I would.”

He nodded. “So you did, white girl, so you did.”

The young Indian miss at his side didn’t seem as devoid of human emotion as her male counterpart, however, and she came up to Alys, hugging her profusely and saying something in a very strange tongue.

The lad translated, “She says something good will come to you.”

Alys nodded, smiling. Then it occurred to her. “She doesn’t speak English?”

“Saa, no.”

“So she could not even understand the teacher?”

The boy remained silent, though when he gazed down at Alys, he suddenly smiled, the first cheerful emotion Alys had seen on his face. The action made him look younger still, innocent, and oh, so very handsome. Alys gaped at him, admiring his long dark hair that fell back from his face. The cooling breeze from the falls brought tiny droplets to his tanned skin; his dark eyes, surprisingly full of approval for her, watched her closely. Alys couldn’t help herself. Gazing back, she fell instantly under his spell.

Slowly, the boy took a piece of jewelry from around his neck. A round, single white shell dangled from a chain of bleached buckskin. He drew it over Alys’s head and settled it around her neck.

“Soka’pii, good.” His right hand signed the meaning of the word in a single gesture. “Looks good on you.”

With the tip of his finger, he tilted her face up toward his. “I will remember you always, young white girl, and what you have done for me and my sister.”

So, thought Alys, thè Indian girl was his sister. Pleased by the realization, she said, pointing to herself, “Alys.”

“Aa-lees,” the young lad rolled her name smoothly over on his tongue.

She pointed to him. “And your name is?”

He shook his head. “A warrior does not repeat his own name. To do so would be dishonorable.”

“But I would like to know…”

She was interrupted by the boy saying something to his sister, again in that strange tongue.

With a quick glance up at Alys, the Indian girl spoke, and, pointing to her brother, said, “Ki’somm-makoyi.”

“Ki’somm-makoyi,” Alys whispered. “That is your name?”

He nodded.

“What does it mean?”

“I cannot say.”

“Please?”

He took a deep breath, grinned at her slightly, then said, pointing to himself, “This one is called Moon Wolf.”

“Moon Wolf.”

Another nod.

She smiled up at him. “Moon Wolf, I will never forget you.”

He stared into her eyes, his look serious, before he volunteered, “Come with us, young Aa-lees. Come with us and I promise that when we grow older, I will take you for wife and show you great honor for what you have done for us this day.”

Under any other circumstance, Alys might have chuckled, the thought absurd for one so young. Yet there was a somberness to his words that she couldn’t discount. “I cannot,” she replied, her voice sounding strangely adult. “I would bring you more trouble if I went with you. No one in the fort would rest until I was found.”

He inclined his head. “That is true. For a small girl, you speak with wise tongue. But still,” his chin shot up in the air, “no matter what others would do, I would honor you in this way.”

His words, or perhaps it was the pride in his manner, reached out to her, its effect on her profound, and she felt herself responding to the boy, tears of appreciation, maybe even joy, coming to her eyes. She said, “I cannot. My mother would miss me too much.”

He remained silent for many moments before he nodded at last. “So it will be,” he uttered, “but know that though you choose to stay behind, I will carry your image with me, here,” he held his hand to his heart, “for so long as this one should live.”

Alys stared. These were strong words, a powerful declaration, for a boy not much older than she, and Alys contemplated him in silence for several seconds, afraid to move lest she spoil the moment. Slowly, he brought his hand up to run his fingers over her cheek, his touch gentle; he reached up with one of his fingers to trace the path of her tears, before bringing that same finger to his own cheek. “And now,” he whispered, touching his face with her own tears, “a part of you is a part of me.”

He didn’t wait for her to respond. All at once, he turned and fled, disappearing with his sister down the rocks and into the countryside as though they belonged to it.

Alys fingered her cheek for what seemed an eternity, letting the warmth of the sunshine wash over her and dry her face. In the distance she could hear the birds sing, while closer at hand, she could smell the perfumed scent of the grasses and wildflowers. Lightly, the wind ruffled her hair, lifting her spirit gently upward until she felt herself becoming a part of all this, a part of the natural course of things.

She would never forget this, never forget him. She couldn’t.

Alys had become, in the space of a moment, infatuated:  She had fallen in love. A love that would last her a lifetime, she thought, no matter the state of her youth. And in that instant, she knew she would never be the same.

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE

by

Karen Kay

https://www.amazon.com/WOLF-SHADOWS-PROMISE-Legendary-Warriors-ebook/dp/B075YC2T3X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507565489&sr=8-1&keywords=wolf+shadow%27s+promise+by+karen+kay&tag=pettpist-20

Updated: October 9, 2017 — 9:10 pm

Elevators – History and Trivia

Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.

First some history:

  • While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
  • One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
  • It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
  • In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.

    Elisha Otis

  • In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
  • Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).

Trivia and fun facts:

  • There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
  • Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
  • The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
  • Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
  • Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
  • Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.

So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research.  What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Preorder Link

 

Updated: October 10, 2017 — 2:45 pm

Christmas Cowboy Style

We’re very happy to have Louise Gouge come visit. She always has something interesting to say. And she has a new book–a Christmas one! Yippee! Leave a comment to enter the drawing for one print copy of COWBOY LAWMAN’S CHRISTMAS REUNION!

 

Many romance authors will tell you that writing the last page of a novel can be a bittersweet experience. We feel relief over satisfactorily tying up our story’s loose ends and, we hope, meeting a deadline. But we also will miss beloved characters as they ride off into their happily-ever-after fairy tale sunset. Even more poignant is completing a beloved series of novels with its many compelling characters whose lives are intertwined.

COWBOY LAWMAN’S CHRISTMAS REUNION is the sixth and final installment in my Four Stones Ranch series set in my fictional town of Esperanza, Colorado. Based on Monte Vista, Colorado, an actual town where my husband and I lived and where our children were born, Esperanza became a character in these books. Completing the series is like moving away from Monte Vista all over again. Oddly enough, we moved right after Christmas 1971, and is a Christmas story. I love little synchronicities like that.

Not being an actual cowgirl and not having lived on an actual ranch, I couldn’t have written these books without some serious research. (Does it count that I used to watch Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman, and long before those, Roy Rogers and John Wayne movies?) My daughter and granddaughter are western-style horsewomen, so they provided the essentials for anything horsey. And I was blessed to find a book about Monte Vista, A Bridge to Yesterday, by Emma M. Riggenbach, whose pioneer family settled in the area. The information she provided in the book gave me everything I needed to create my own version of this small town. While historical errors sometimes slip past the most diligent writer, this book kept my stories close to the way it was in the 1880s. My fictional Four Stones Ranch is loosely based on a ranch/farm owned and operated by some folks our family knew way back when.

 

As it turns out, COWBOY LAWMAN’S CHRISTMAS REUNION,  is my fifteenth and final book for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical Imprint. (The line is closing next year.) So I write this blog with a sense of nostalgia hanging over me. I’ll miss writing for LIH, and I’ll miss the fictional people who populated this last series. If you’ve read any of my Four Stones Ranch books, you’ll understand why. But I’m kind of hooked on writing westerns, so you may see me here again in the future.

Here’s the story of the final installment:

Sheriff Justice Gareau can make outlaws quake in their boots…yet coming face-to-face with Evangeline Benoit once again takes away all his composure. She broke their engagement, and his heart, to marry a wealthy older man. Despite his reluctance, Justice can’t avoid the widowed single mother of two when they’re collaborating on a Christmas village for the town’s children.

The loving boy Evangeline once knew has become an unyielding lawman. Forced to flee New Orleans over false allegations, Evie doubts Justice will take her side when the past follows her to Colorado. Especially when he and her troublesome son butt heads. But perhaps the spirit of Christmas will soften his heart and give them a second chance at love.

Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises.

® and ™ Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

 

Other books in the series:

Cowboy to the Rescue

Cowboy Seeks a Bride

Cowgirl for Keeps

Cowgirl Under the Mistletoe

Cowboy Homecoming

 

Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical Romances. She received the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in 2005 and was a finalist in 2011, 2015, 2016, and 2017; and placed in the Laurel Wreath in 2012.

Please visit her Web site at https://Louisemgougeauthor.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LouiseMGougeAuthor/, Twitter: @Louisemgouge

 

Please tell me what it is you like about western stories and you’ll be in the drawing for a print copy of Cowboy Lawman’s Christmas Reunion! (U.S. residents only please)

 

In the Christmas Spirit

Time is flying by and it won’t be long before Santa will ride in on his sleigh. This year has been one big blur for me. I’ve released four books since January and have one more left next month—To Marry a Texas Outlaw. But today is the release party for CHRISTMAS IN A COWBOY’S ARMS and I’m so excited to have this out!

I felt really honored to have my story included in a book with Leigh Greenwood, our own Margaret Brownley, Rosanne Bittner, Anna Schmidt, and Amy Sandas. These six stories are guaranteed to warm your heart. Margaret’s especially.

My story – The Christmas Stranger – is about a drifter, Hank Destry, who has no home or family. No reason to celebrate anything. He’s riding through a huge blizzard with his dog and finds the drifts too large to continue. His coat is too thin and no protection. Unable to hold on to the reins, he slides from the saddle into the snow.

Sidalee King is returning from visiting a lonely old woman named Miss Mamie and finds him. She loads him into her wagon and takes him home to the Lone Star Ranch. She works in the mercantile for the Legend family. Cholera took her family years before but she’s determined to give Miss Mamie a good Christmas. If only she can reunite the old dear with her son George. That would be perfect.

This story is about finding that one place to belong, healing old wounds, and giving of yourself without expecting anything in return. Giving is what Christmas is all about and I think you’ll love the journey Hank and Sidalee take in finding the courage to open their hearts to a happily ever after.

Hank’s dog Beau almost stole the story and I guarantee he’ll make you laugh. Such a scamp.

Here’s a short Excerpt:

Hank slowly tugged the long silk ribbon from around her neck, trailing the red fabric down one arm. He leaned closer. “There’s some mistletoe right over your head. I hope I’m not pressing my luck, but do you mind if I kiss you?”

A happy, warm glow swept over her. “I don’t see anyone trying to fight you,” she whispered.

He pulled her up into his arms and drew the ribbon around her, tethering her to him. Sidalee had never felt more alive, more breathless, more…hot.

She tilted her face to him, feeling the wild beat of his heart that matched hers. He gently anchored her against the hard wall of his chest. The moment his lips touched hers, an aching hunger swept through her, turning her knees to pudding.

The yearning for him was so strong she clutched him to keep from falling in a puddle at his feet. One arm curled around his neck just under his hair. The strands brushed her skin like tiny feathers.

That’s when she knew she was falling in love with Hank Destry.

* * * *

What about Christmas do you love most? Is it the smells, the sounds, the food? Leave a comment to be included in the drawing for two copies (your choice of format.)

The Harvest Festival — Our Native American Roots

Yummmmm…  Autumn — crisp air, scented delicately with falling leaves and the smoke from wood stoves;  Cinnamon and fresh apple cider, pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce, apple pie, the last of the corn on the cob…

And what about the “feels” of autumn? Traipsing through leaves, racking them up and jumping in them; picking up a leaf and tracing its pattern; warm days, cool nights, the pleasure of feeling Mother Earth prepare for a few months’ sleep.

And how about the sounds of autumn?  Cold nights and warm blankets, football games announcing the players; the sounds of cheerleaders and marching bands; long practices — even the quiet sound of leaves falling to the ground.  How I love it.

thanksgivingOf course, to the people who lived close to the earth, these were all the beauties of autumn, also.  So much was this the case that an entire festival of fun and merriment was devoted to autumn — and that festival was called the Harvest Festival.

Of course we are all pretty much aware that our Thanksgiving comes from the Eastern Indians, and in particular Squanto — and if you didn’t know about Squanto, I would highly recommend the movie, Squanto, starring a young and dreamy Adam Beach.  Sigh…

But what was this festival called Thanksgiving?  Did it happen just this one time?  Or was this Thanksgiving part of an ancient celebration of the American Indians to give Thanks to He who is known as the Creator.

Thanksgiving was one of several festivals amongst the Eastern Indians — in particular I’m talking about the Iroquois.  However, these ceremonies were common to all the Eastern tribes.  There were many festivals throughout the year, and they tended to follow the seasons.

The Iroquois celebrated six festivals, wherein they gave thanks to the Creator for all they had.  These festivals would open with speeches by leaders, teachers, and elders.  And of course there was much dancing, which was done not only for the fun of simply dancing, but it was also a sense of worship.  It was thought that because the Creator needed some sort of amusement, He gave the people dancing.  Let me tell you a little about some of these celebrations.

In spring — early March — it was time to collect together tree bark and sap – this was needed to repair houses and other things, such as canoes, bowls, etc.   Spring was also the time for planting.  This was the maple festival.  Next was the Planting festival.  Here prayers were sent to the Creator to bless their seed.

The Iroquois’ main food source was corn, beans and squash (the three sisters), and of course deer meat or other meat when available.  Family gardens were separated by borders that were broad and grassy — they would even camp on these borders and sometimes they were raise watch towers.

The next festival of the Iroquois was the Strawberry Festival.  This is where the people gave thanks to the Creator for their many fruits (like strawberries).  It was summertime.  The women gathered wild nuts and other foods, while the men hunted, fished and provided various meats for cooking.  Again, each festival was greeted with much dancing and merriment.  Did you know that the some Iroquois believed the way to the Creator was paved with strawberries?

The festival after that was the Green Corn Fesitval.  Again, the people thanked the Creator for the bounty of food that had been raised all through the summer.  Dancers danced to please the Creator and musicians sang and beat the drum.  Again there were many speeches to honor the people and the Creator.  There were team sports.  Lacrosse was the game that was most admired and it was played with great abandon by the men.  Women played games, too and often their games were as competitive as the men’s.

The season festival following that was…are you ready?  You’re right — The Harvest Festival.  By this time the women had harvested the corn, beans and squash.  Much of it would be dried.  Much went to feed families.  Husks were made into many different items.  Dolls, rugs, mats.  Did you know that the dolls didn’t have faces?  Now was the time to gather more nuts and berries.  Men were busy, too, hunting far away.  Bear, moose, beaver were all sought after and hunted.  Again, there was much celebration.  Dancing, speeches, prayer.  And of course — food.  It was this particular festival that was shared with the newcomers to this continent.

Can you guess what the next festival was?  Although this is a Christmas tree, it was not a celebration of Christmas — but if you guessed this, you were very close.  The next and last festival of the year was New Year’s.  At this time, a white dog was sacrificed as a gift to the Creator.  This was also a time for renewing the mind and body.  (Does that not remind you of our New Year’s resolutions?)  At this time, the False Face Society members would wear masks to help others to cleanse themselves of their bad minds and restore only their good minds.  There was again much celebration, much dancing, much merriment and enjoyment as each person would settle in for the long winter ahead of them.

The First Americans indeed did give this country very much, not only its festivals which we still remember to this day, but also it gave to this nation a fighting spirit for freedom.  In these times when there seems to be a forgetfulness about our American roots, it is wonderful to remember that the American Indian and the Love of Freedom went hand-in-hand.  What seems interesting to me is that our Thanksgiving festival still honors the custom of giving thanks for those gifts that He, The Creator, has given us.  To the American Indian all of these festivals contained this special element — that of giving Thanks to our Maker.

Perhaps it’s only because this one festival was shared by American Indian and Colonist alike that set the tone of Thanksgiving for future generations.  And I do believe that the love of autumn and giving thanks for that which belongs to us has its roots in The Harvest Festival, so beloved to the Eastern Indian Tribes.

What do you think?

Be sure to leave a comment to be entered into the free give-away.  Giveaway Guidelines are off to the right here on this page.

As an aside, for a short time the book, WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, Book # 4 in the Legendary Warrior series, is on pre-order sale.  It’s due to be released to KindleUnlimited October 1st.  While I don’t yet have a link to share with you, I do have the gorgeous cover, and so I thought I’d let you have a peek at it before it goes up for sale.

Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms & Book Giveaway

Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arm will be released on October 3rd.  Don’t you just love that title?  I’m so excited to be part of the collection, which also includes stories by Leigh Greenwood and our very own Linda Broday!

My story is titled A Texas Ranger for Christmas and I’m giving away a copy (giveaway guidelines apply). So be sure to leave a comment.  Here’s a sneak peek: 

Sadie had just put Adam down for his afternoon nap that second week in December when a hammering sound drew her to the kitchen window.

“Dang that man!” Now the ranger was on the barn roof hammering down shingles. Last week, after he’d spent the day repairing the fence, he’d run a fever and had to spend two days in bed.

Now here he was at it again, overdoing it.

She pulled a woolen shawl from a peg by the back door and stepped outside. The wind was cold and angry clouds crowded in from the north like a bunch of wooly sheep.

Upon reaching the barn, she yelled up to him. “If you fall and break your neck, don’t come runnin’ to me!”

He peered over the edge of the roof. His nose was red from the cold and his hair tossed about like sails in the wind, but he sure was a sight for sore eyes. “I guess I’d just have to wait ‘till your friend Scooter comes.”

She balled her hands at her side. “I’d think you’d have a little consideration for my reputation.”

His eyebrows quirked upward. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“How do you think it looks for a woman to entertain a man that’s not her husband?”

She’d not yet told anyone of Richard’s death. She didn’t want friends and neighbors coming to her door to express condolences until after the ranger was long gone.

He shrugged. “Isn’t it a little late to worry about that?  Some of your neighbors already know I’m here.”

“I told them my husband sent you here to recover from your bullet wound.”

“Your husband sent me? That might be hard to explain when the truth comes out that he’s dead.”

“That’s my problem.”  She tossed her head.   “I mean, it Captain.” She grabbed hold of the ladder and gave it a good shaking. “If you don’t come down, I’ll see that you’re stuck up there for good!”

“Why, Mrs. Carnes, is that a threat?”

She glared up at him. “You’ve already had one relapse and I’m not about to take care of you for another. So what’s it gonna be?”

“Okay, okay, I’ll come down, but only on one condition.”

She straightened, hands at her waist. “What?”
“You stop calling me captain. My name is Cole.”

“Not gonna happen,” she said. Calling him by his given name would only strengthen the bond between them, and she couldn’t let that happen. It was hard enough trying not to like the man more than was absolutely necessary.

“Why not?” he asked.

“I never name an animal I plan on eating, and I sure don’t aim on naming a man who’ll soon be gone.”

“All right, Mrs. Carnes. Have it your way. But could you at least tell me what your Christian name is? I promise not to use it unless you say it’s okay.”

She chewed on a bottom lip. “Sadie,” she said. “And I don’t want you calling me that, you hear?”

“Nice name,” he said. “It suits you.”

She didn’t know what he meant by that and she wasn’t about to ask. “So what’s it gonna be, Captain?” She grabbed hold of the ladder and rattled it. “You coming down or ain’t you?”

“Oh, I’ll come down, Mrs. Carnes.  But only because I don’t want you complaining about me to your dead husband.”

Short stories and novellas are popular around the holidays.  I don’t mind writing short, but I prefer reading full-length novels. Which do you prefer?  Also, has a short story ever inspired you to check out the author’s novels?

What do you call Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms?
Heavenly!

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Updated: September 21, 2017 — 9:39 am

Wrangling the Rancher by Jeannie Watt

Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday! I’m thrilled to have a new release this month. My latest Harlequin Superromance has one of my favorite tropes–city girl, country guy. (Although I admit to also loving city guy, country girl.)  In the story, I have a down to earth guy who has worked for the family guest ranch long enough to be sick and tired of wealthy, privileged people. He finally makes an escape and leases a farm, only to have the granddaughter of the guy he leased from move in…and she just happens to be a privileged city girl–the bane of his existence.

Here’s an excerpt:

Cole was drinking coffee when he heard the sound of an engine. He glanced at the clock and frowned. Five thirty seemed too early for a social call…maybe the granddaughter had once again called law enforcement?

He set down his cup and went to the door. The car that pulled up was low slung and sexy. A thin coat of dust covered the silver finish, but it was obviously a car that had been well cared for. The woman climbing out of the driver’s side wasn’t that tall, but she was fit and sexy, with long blond hair pulled into a low ponytail. She perfectly matched the vehicle. She shaded her eyes when she caught sight of him standing on the porch watching her, then squared her shoulders and marched toward him.

The granddaughter. This should prove interesting.

Cole leaned against the newel post and waited. A guy didn’t spend eight years working on a guest ranch without learning to both read people and deal with them effectively. His read on this woman—simmering anger. Frustration. In need of a scapegoat for…something. No question as to whom that scapegoat might be.

“Hi,” he said when she hit the end of the broken-up walkway. “Want some coffee?”

Her brisk steps slowed. “You don’t know who I am.”

“I’m guessing that you’re Karl’s granddaughter.” He jerked his head toward the house. “I just made a fresh pot.” He ran his gaze over her. “You look like you could use a cup.”

Her bemused expression changed to something approaching a smirk. “Thanks.”

With a casual shrug, he opened the door. The woman hesitated, then preceded him into the house.

“It hasn’t changed much,” she said.

“Why would I change it?”

She shot him a look. “I guess that depends on why you’re here.”

He went into the kitchen and pulled a second mug down from the cupboard near the sink. “I’m here to farm. Why are you here?”

“I’m here to check on the welfare of my grandfather.”

“Then,” he asked in a reasonable voice before handing her the steaming cup, “why aren’t you in Dillon, where your grandfather is?”

Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. A woman used to playing her hand carefully. “That is where I’m going.”

“Just thought you’d stop by? Introduce yourself?” He set down his own coffee and held out a hand. “Cole Bryan.”

She returned his handshake. “Taylor Evans.”

“Nice to meet you, Taylor. And thanks for calling the deputies on me.”

“I didn’t have a lot of choice. My aunt wouldn’t answer her phone, you answered my grandfather’s phone and I was concerned.”

“Yet not concerned enough to keep closer tabs on your grandfather over the past several months.”

Her expression iced over. “There were circumstances at play there.” He lifted his eyebrows politely. “Private circumstances,” she said in a tone indicating that if he had any manners at all, he would stop the questions now.

He took a sip of coffee. If she thought cool superiority was going to make him remember his place, she had another think coming. Having worked with a master of the freeze strategy—his step-aunt and former boss, Miranda Bryan—she was going to have to do better than this.

“Are you satisfied now that all is well?”

He could tell the word no teetered on the edge of her lips, but she caught it before it fell. “I guess I don’t understand why you’re here in the house. My grandfather said he doesn’t think he’ll be in Dillon for all that long.”

“Maybe your grandfather is lonely and would like a roommate.”

“My grandfather is not the roommate kind.”

“You sound certain.”

“I know him.”

“Yet you didn’t know he moved.”

Irritation flashed across her features. “Would you stop bringing that up?”

“Sorry.” He set down his cup and gripped the counter on each side of his hips. “Maybe if you told me why you’re here, I can help you out, and then you can continue on to Dillon.”

She smiled tightly. “Yes. What a great idea. I wanted to meet you.”

“Make sure I was on the up-and-up?”

“My grandfather always leased his land to the neighbor to farm. I understand the neighbor is still farming.”

“Are you suggesting that I might have persuaded him to lease to me instead?”

She gave a small shrug. “The thought crossed my mind.”

“I did.”

Her eyes widened, and it took her a few seconds to say, “How long have you known my grandfather?”

“He used to cowboy with my grandfather a long time ago.”

“Karl never was a cowboy.”

Cole said nothing. He wasn’t going to argue the point.

Her eyebrows drew together. “Not that I knew of anyway.”

A slight step back, which gave her a couple of points in his book. “I didn’t use any kind of coercion. I just…talked to him.”

“And ended up living in his house. Using his stuff.”

“I’m a smooth talker.” And since her suspicions—her attitude, really—was starting to tick him off, he saw no reason to mention that Karl had been concerned about the place being broken into during his absence. Having Cole living there solved a problem for both of them, but too much explaining was only going to give her more to latch onto. He glanced past Taylor to the teapot-shaped clock on the wall. “I also have to get to work.”

“You have a job?”

“Yes,” he said in his patient guest-ranch-manager voice. “I’m a farmer.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If you want to know more, please follow one of the following links:

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo   Google Play   iTunes

Go West, young man!

We’re thrilled to have Becca Whitham with us today. In Becca’s own words, she’s an author, paper crafter, and Army wife who resides in South Carolina with her husband of more than 30 years and a 12-foot-long craft cabinet she thinks should count as a dependent. So far, neither the army nor the IRS are convinced. In between moves from one part of the country to the other, she writes stories combining faith and fiction that touch the heart. You can find her online at http://www.beccawhitham.com or on her paper crafting blog at http://www.becca-expressions.blogspot.com.

“Go West, young man!”

This was the solution to every disappointed hope of the mid-late 1800s. Did your crops fail? Go West. Were you too poor to own your own land? Go West. Had your life taken you in a direction you didn’t like? Go West!

This solution appealed to women as well as men because there’s a universality about thinking the grass will be greener, the situation better, and life easier if we could start somewhere fresh and leave all our mistakes behind.

But what if you gave up everything to make the journey only to discover that your situation is now worse?

In The Promised Bride, Emilia Stanek leaves the stench of Chicago for the wide-open space of Montana as a mail-order bride because she’s sure being the wife of Finn Collins—a man she’s fallen in love with through letters—will solve everything from her father’s ailing health to her brother’s involvement with a gang of boys she doesn’t like. Except, when she arrives in Helena expecting to meet her new husband, she’s greeted by the county sheriff instead and told that Finn was murdered the day before. Not only that, he left behind considerable debts which she’ll be responsible to pay if she files the paperwork formalizing her proxy marriage.

“This mail-order bride novel as it all – likeable characters, intriguing suspense, a dash of wry humor, and a swoon-worthy romance!”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

With nothing left for her back home, Emilia stays. As you’ve probably guessed, she also falls in love with the gruff county sheriff, Mac McCall, over the course of the story. I know. Spoiler. But you don’t read a romance novel to find out how it ends, you read it to enjoy the journey.

When Gina Welborn and I first brainstormed this story, we wanted to use the past to speak into today. Mail-order brides of the 1800s were all too often greeted on the other end of their journey by pimps and madams who had tricked them into a life of sexual slavery—which is the same way predators use Facebook, Twitter, ShapChat, Craigslist, and other online sites to lure young girls, in particular, into sex trafficking. The problem is epidemic. According to wearethorn.org, 100,000 new ads for “escorts” are posted every day, and 63 percent of children rescued from sex trafficking report that they were approached via an online source.

As Mac says, anyone can be anything in a letter…or online.

Although there’s no mystery that Mac and Emilia end up together, there is one regarding Finn. Did he fool Emilia into a marriage that would have ended with her being sold into a brothel? Would she have been better off staying in Chicago and using her energy to find solutions there? We didn’t solve this mystery easily. We wanted readers to wrestle with Finn, his intentions, and Emilia’s decision to trust the written words of a man she’d never actually met.

Sometimes it is a good idea to go West—to start over and start fresh in a new place. But sometimes the best solution is to stay put and figure out how to make your life better where you are right now.

For a chance to win a copy of The Promise Bride, please leave a comment telling us a challenge you are currently facing or a way lessons from the past apply to today.

 

 

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