I just love when I get a new cover. It’s like opening a present on Christmas morning. I never tire of seeing the new designs by the people at Sourcebooks. They’re truly amazing.
I especially love this one. The colors are so beautiful and the models are truly romantic
This is Outlaw Mail Order Brides #4 and the ex-preacher Ridge Steele gets a bride at last.
Except Adeline Jancy cannot speak.
She communicates through writing so she carries paper and pencil everywhere. But just because she can’t speak, doesn’t mean she’s passive. Ridge finds that out pretty quick and doesn’t make the mistake again.
This story is about finding hope and having the courage to right wrongs. Ridge and Addie are reaching for the impossible. Oftentimes it’s easier to let things stay the way they are, especially when living in a safe, outlaw town. It’s a lot harder to force change and they had to reach a point where they could accept that it would be possible by the slimmest of margins to make their lives better and grab hold of their future.
I’m going to be very sad to leave Hope’s Crossing. I love all these people. But a new series awaits and will start soon.
So tell me what you like or don’t like about this cover and/or the title. The book comes out on November 24, 2020.
Last week was crazy for me. I played What if…with a lot of you for June’s Game Day. I had a pin removed from my right index finger on Tuesday. The fourth book in my Wishing Texas Series, To Marry A Texas Cowboy, was due Wednesday, and then it was the Fourth of July weekend. Lesson learned? Consult my calendar more carefully when scheduling events and deadlines.
But I have a surprise for you, Today I received the final cover for the book!
Though I don’t have a release dateyet, here’s the backcover copy for the book:
She lives by a set of rules. He aims to break each one.
When Zane Logan returns to Wishing, Texas, he’s shocked to learn that his grandmother has hired an assistant to manage her wedding planning business as she heals from surgery. With five marriages between his parents, just the thought of weddings breaks him out in hives. To look out for his grandmother’s financial interests, Zane takes charge. He doesn’t trust easily, especially when the assistant is prettier than a Texas spring day.
Childhood taught McKenna Stinson an important rule: never count on anyone but yourself. She dreams of working hard to have her own business. Stepping in for a successful wedding planner in a small town known for big weddings is the perfect opportunity…until her employer’s grandson announces he’s the new boss. He’s cynical about love and knows nothing about weddings—so why is she falling for him?
Even worse, Zane’s so hot McKenna has to make up two new rules: don’t date a man more attractive than you and never, ever, date a man you work with.
Being a mom to three sons has helped me create heroes. I learned early on males communicate differently. I wasn’t surprised to learn women use 20,000 words a day and men 7,000. In an interview Clint Eastwood said the first thing he did with a script was cut dialogue. Before I send a book off, I look for where my hero is too wordy. I also check for non “guy speak” dialogue. For example, men don’t use qualifiers. They don’t say “Would you like to…” or “What if we…” Nope. We women do that. Men simply cut to the chase. “Want to get pizza?”
From the book I just turned in, To Marry A Texas Cowboy:
Zane tried to tune out the women talking about how else Susannah would incorporate her color scheme. Who wanted to waste their New Year’s Eve at a wedding? Not him. Why did a bride have to ruin a perfectly good holiday and football night? From the color scheme, they chatted back and forth about whether they should eat or check out dresses first.
Ridiculous. It wouldn’t take him and his buddies a minute to decide. You hungry? No. Me neither. We’ll eat later. Done. Issue settled. But women made every discussion as hard as finding hair on a frog.
There are more ways men and women communicate differently, but I’ll leave those for another time. Today’s giveaway is a Warrior Not Worrier Cozy Sleeve and a copy of Home On The Ranch: Colorado Rescue. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment about the way men and women communicate differently or your thoughts on my cover or the backcover copy. Basically, just leave a comment and talk with me!
Step back in time—how do you celebrate a barn raising in the Old West? A wagon train coming to town? A wedding? The end of a cattle drive? Or something as regular as a Saturday night?
The towns in the West were full of independent, rugged people, looking to make a mark on the world or at least on their own pockets. Town dances invited all to attend; cowboys and miners, outlaws and lawmen, bankers and merchants, cultured women and soiled doves. Dances were important to bring a community together for courtship and friendshipping. It was also a vehicle that mixed the social classes, giving people opportunities for advancing one’s class. America’s class system wasn’t as rigid as had been the countries of Europe and the attendees of the dances proved this especially in the West.
Immigrants found it easy to hoe-down with their neighbors as many of the dances originated in Europe and changed very little from the folk dances people already knew. The Polka was a favorite in the new West, but other common dances were the Quadrille, Grand March, Waltz and Scottish Fling. As dances evolved, new steps became incorporated and a dance master would call out the steps to keep the group in sync. This evolved into an American original, the square dance. It seemed to fit the American ideal of a mixture of people and ideas that work together to create a new culture.
In many western towns, women were scarce. And just as in Shakespeare’s plays, men would assume the female role. “Heifer branding” solved the problem as burly men would don a piece of fabric tied round their arm or strap on a bonnet or apron to take the place of the fairer sex and the party continued.
Hurdy-Gurdy Girls traveled to western towns in a group of several women, chaperoned by a married couple, often with children. They hired out for dances and then traveled on to another town.
Saloons found that dancing brought in more men and more money, and employed women as dance hall girls. These women were looked down upon by “proper” ladies, but they were not prostitutes as they were accused. Men would buy a dance ticket for a dollar, then spend it on a partner of his choice, dancing together for a quarter of an hour. The interaction allowed for dance and conversation with men starved for female companionship.
The women generally earned half the price of the tickets they claimed. If they took the man to the bar after the dance, they received a commission on the drinks as well. The dance hall girls could make more in a week than most men made in a month. They also made more money than the prostitutes did, and when given an opportunity, the soiled doves made their way into the dance hall ranks.
Towns also sponsored regular dancing events. In Albert Benard de Russailh’s travel journal, Last Adventure, published in 1851, he wrote of dances in San Francisco. “I am occasionally reminded of our balls at the Salle Valentine on the Rue St. Honoré. There is one important difference: Parisian rowdies often come to blows; but in San Francisco hardly an evening passes without drunken brawls during which shots are fired.”
Dance in the Old West is part of the mystique of the era and was as vital to building their culture, as it is today. It was used to release energy, bring together neighbors, socialize, and provide recreation. So come on out to the barn—let’s dance.
One lucky commenter chosen at random will receive her choice of one of Jo Noelle’s ebooks! To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on your favorite dance or your favorite dancing memory.
Photo Attribution Public Domain: American Vaudeville Museum Collection (MS 421), MS 421 Box 66 Folder 1, azu_ms421_b66_f1_pg034a003_m.jpg, courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections.
The first book in my new Hanger’s Horsemen series released last Tuesday, and I’m so excited to have a cover that features a rugged cowboy hero. I’ve had a few heroes make appearances on other covers, but they were always the supporting cast to the heroine.
I have three covers where the heroes get an arm and a leg in the picture. (Although you gotta admit that arm on Levi is pretty nice.)
My first hero only got his leg in the picture.
I did get nearly an entire hero on three of my covers, but the heroine remains the focal point.
So having my cowboy hero front and center this time was an exciting change. And I love the model they chose as well as the addition of the horse as the supporting actor.
However, when I asked my publisher if they had any cover mock-ups that failed to make the final cut, I was surprised to find an entirely different cowboy on the cover. One with a shy smile, rugged physique, and a lot more facial hair.
Here are a few of the first version mock-ups. Notice the different poses, the different backgrounds, even different hat colors.
If I had to pick one of these iterations, I think I would take the bottom middle. I like the hat tip, the smile, and the sunset in the background. Although, I strongly prefer the font and series designation of the one at the top left, which is most similar to the final copy.
All in all, I think they made the right call. I really like the final cover.
Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger’s Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they’re the ones in need of saving.
In this time of ‘house arrest’ we are all staying home most of the time. Now I don’t know about other writers (haven’t seen any) but I started out the first two weeks thinking I’d write like crazy.
Didn’t work. I cleaned closets, cooked, watched TV, read books.
When the two weeks continued on and on, I made a list every morning of what I would do. Pretty soon I learned I could keep my Monday to-do-list all week and just change it to Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday.
THEN I discovered a box of old music, country of course. I bounced out of bed, put on my sweat pants, didn’t bother with shower or makeup half the time, and flipped on Only the Lonely by Roy Orbison. We danced around the house.
I know it sounds strange but it cheered me up. By the time I played it three times, I was ready to write.
Then I found a CD of Riders in the Sky with a song Gene Autry wrote. Back in the Saddle Again. I learned to sing Whoopi-ty-aye-oh. Dancing again. To hear the song click here.
I played it as I saddled up for work. When I was a kid I loved nothing more than riding across open country and today (as I have for thirty years) I love writing.
I’ve stepped into fiction in good times and bad. When my heart’s been broken, I fall in love with my characters. When reality gets too much, I make my own world. When I simply want to have an adventure, I travel in my mind.
During this time of isolation, I still feel connected to my readers and all the writers I know. We may be home dancing to Only the Lonely but we’re together.
After I took a bad tumble riding in my teens, the hardest thing I ever did was climb back on a horse, but the strange thing was, once in the saddle, I wondered why it had taken me so long.
My advice for this time:
Be good to yourself. Get lost in a good book whether you’re reading it or writing it. Have a party every night. Popcorn and a movie or cookies and milk on the porch watching the rain.
Be happy. Sure you don’t get to see the people you love, but the upside is you don’t have to be around all those folks who bother you.
Dance. Personally, I never learned to dance, but I do it anyway. I told Tom once that I may look like I’m standing still, but I’m dancing inside. He smiled and said, “I know.”
I’m in the middle of a series and I’m loving it. Book One, BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFÉ came out last week. It’s packed with action and love stories that will keep you reading through the night.
Please add it to your reading list and ‘if you have time’ leave a comment and tell me what you’re dancing to during this isolation. One reader’s comment will be selected to receive my first book out of the box.
Joke of the day from Riders in the Sky. “If the world was logical, men would ride sidesaddle.”
After the Civil War, the boots cowboys were wearing weren’t cutting the muster on the job. While accounts differ whether this occurred in Kansas or Texas, most agree a cowboy went into a shoemaker asking for changes to the day’s boot style. Each feature the smart cowboy asked for fixed a problem. The pointed toe made it easier for him to get his foot in the stirrup. The taller shaft served the purpose of protecting his leg from mesquite tree thorns, barbed wire, snakes and other dangers. The bigger, thicker heel kept his foot from coming out of the stirrup. The boot’s tough leather protected a cowboy’s ankle from being bruised by the wooden stirrup.
The cowboy changed his footwear his footwear because it wasn’t working. A lot of my stories deal with something not working in my hero and/or heroine’s life. Sometimes they know they need to make a change. Sometimes not. Sometimes life forces them to make a change when it’s the last thing they want. But still, my characters tug on their boots, put one foot in front of the other, whether they’re happy about it or not, and walk toward the future.
In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, both AJ Quinn and Grace Henry are forced to make a change in their lives, and neither is very happy about it. Grace is laid off and her best friend talks her into coming to Texas to manage her bed and breakfast. AJ is undercover for the FBI taking the recently vacant job as chief of police to catch a forger. Both vow working in Wishing, Texas, is temporary. They know where they want their lives to go and this isn’t what they had in mind.
Their meeting is one of my favorites. Grace is driving into town and her breaks give out. She rear ends AJ’s truck. AJ tries to tell Grace who he is, but she won’t let him get the words out, instead saying they should exchange insurance info, call a tow truck and be on their way. AJ lists the reasons to call the police, her insurance company may require a police report, debris needs to be cleared from the road, and someone needs to divert traffic until their vehicles are moved. When Grace still resists, AJ asks if there’s a reason she doesn’t want the police called. Grace responds that all the police will do is complicate the issue and small-town police will be even worse about it. Talk about an awkward first meeting! I love when my characters dig themselves into a hole and refuse to put down the shovel!
Another thing I love to do is have the hero or heroine give a gift to the other during the story. Though they may not realize it at the time, the gift is a big turning point in their relationship. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, Grace is a New York city girl. AJ tells Grace she can’t keep running around in flip-flops and gives her a box. What does AJ give her? What else? A pair of cowboy boots she admired!
I’m going to admit something…I love shoes and I love boots even more. I have four pairs of cowboy boots I wear in the winter and various open toe ankle boots I wear in the winter. Stop by today and leave a comment about your favorite footwear to be entered to win a signed copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a pair of boot socks.
Happy Valentine’s Week!!
The time for romance, gifts, and love stories.
One of my favorite experiences as an author is seeing my cover for the first time. It’s terrifying and exciting all rolled into one. Such anticipation! Well, I’m excited to reveal my next cover. Talk about romantic! The designers did such a fabulous job giving this cover an incredibly unique yet timelessly romantic feel.
The Kissing Tree is a novella collection by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Nicole Deese and Amanda Dykes that spans roughly 150 years. Each of the four stories takes place in Oak Springs, Texas, centering around a particular sprawling live oak whose trunk and branches have been carved over the centuries with couples’ initials. It is the keeper of a thousand stories, and this book showcases four of them: one in the mid-1800’s, one in the late-1800’s, one during World War II, and one in present day. It releases this fall, and should be up for pre-order in just a few short weeks!
The tree we used as a model for our Kissing Tree is a real tree with it’s own romantic heritage on the Texas A&M university campus. The Century Tree. Isn’t it gorgeous? This tree is the site of many a romantic marriage proposal to this day.
Our Free Gift to You
We loved what the Bethany House designers did with the cover, and they were so kind to work with us to cook up these beautiful designs for you to use as either a wallpaper for your phone or a background image for your computer. They utilized many of those lovely cover elements—the embossed backgrounds, those lush leaves, and a Bible verse that encompasses the deepest love of all. A reminder that you are beloved and cherished!
Use these links below and the download button you’ll see near the top of the screen to claim your free gift:
Since The Kissing Tree won’t be available until fall, I thought I would offer another sweet, western romance read for your Valentine reading pleasure. The first book in my Patchwork Family series, More Than Meets the Eye (ebook) is on sale for only $0.99 starting today! Love, adventure, cowboys, and a pet hog. What could be more fun?
When her family is threatened, falling in love may be her best defense.
“More Than Meets the Eye captured my heart from the start. This story is easily the best Inspirational romance I have read in years, if not the best Inspirational romance I have ever read.” ~ All About Romance
2020 is off and running for me with a big event. Tomorrow To Tame A Texas Cowboy is released!
I’m also starting out the new year with a shiny new outlook thanks to some advice I received.
I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter teaches us something. I also believe the simplest action sometimes has a profound impact. That’s what I discovered when I entered Maxine’s Uptown Boutique, in Pitman, New Jersey and met Jinger Cahill. What she told me changed my outlook. Today, I’m passing on her wisdom.
My heroine, Cheyenne Whitten, a barrel racer, is definitely an optimist. For me, that sometimes proved difficult. My strength has been seeing possible pitfalls in situations. Because of that, I never would’ve called myself an optimist and have tried to change that. I’ve heard “it’s how you look at something” before. It’s the old the glass is half-full, not half-empty idea, but I’ve struggled to put those words into practice.
Jinger taught me what I give voice to, I give power to and attract more of. When I said I struggled with negativity, the universe heard, “Hey, I love negativity! Give me more!” As I’m writing, the vision of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors saying “Feed me, Seymour” popped into my head! 🙂
Over the years, people have told me not to worry. I’ve been given what I call the Frozen advice—Let it go. I’ve been told not to get my panties in a bunch. I thought it was great advice, but wondered how to accomplish it? How do I rewire my brain? Then Jinger shared a quote from Mother Teresa. “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” The light bulb went off. My brain screamed, “I understand it now!” Instead of concentrating on what not to do, I needed to give my brain something else to focus on! The way for me to fend off those emotions was to work on being more positive.
I’ve never been a big believer in affirmations. Imagine Natalie Wood’s character, Susan in Miracle on 34th Street. When she doesn’t find the gift she asked Santa for under the tree, in the car on the way home she mutters, “I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” That was me when I tried Jinger’s affirmation, and like Susan, I received a surprise.
“Great I Am, White Light of Truth (you can tailor to your own beliefs), only good will come to me. Only good will go from me. So be it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Those few words reframed my thinking. They remind me to stay positive. When I slide back into old ways, they remind me to look at the flip side of a situation and to focus on what I can do, rather than what I shouldn’t.
If what I’ve shared resonates with you, great. If not, file it away. Someone you meet may need to hear it one day. Whichever the case, thank you for being here today, and I wish you a blessed 2020 full of possibilities.
I have two giveaways today. One person will receive the Chakra bracelet from Jinger’s shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique. Another will receive the Goldstone bracelet, and both will receive a copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the random drawing leave a comment about the best or most impactful advice you’ve received.
Click here to buy a copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. Click here to like and follow Jinger’s shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique on Facebook.
As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I find myself with a long list of blessings. I’ll share a few with you.
I’m thankful for my good health and those who’ve made it possible. I’m grateful for my family, particularly my boys who have grown into young men I’m incredibly proud of. I’m ecstatic the universe sent Kim, my partner in crime as my dear husband calls her, into our lives. I’m grateful beyond measure for meeting Jinger Cahill when I wandered into her shop, Maxine’s Uptown Boutique in Glassboro, New Jersey. Jinger’s wisdom and insight has changed my outlook on life in ways I never imagined. She might even make an optimist out of me! (Check back in January 8, 2020. I think sharing what Jinger’s taught me will make a perfect New Year blog!) I’m thankful to two dear friends, Lori Halligan and Jennifer Jacobson, who continue to be there for me through life’s ups and downs. Everyone should be so blessed to have two such caring, beautiful women in their lives. I’m beholden to the staff at Starbucks, Custer and 15th and their steadfast support that the words will in fact come. Lastly, but certain=ly not least, ’m thankful for my loyal readers who’ve been with me on this crazy writing journey, and I’m pleased to share the cover and release date for the next book in my Wishing Texas Series.
They want different things, but they just might need each other
Barrel racer Cheyenne Whitten returns to Wishing, Texas, after an injury, determined to recuperate and return to the rodeo circuit. But living with her over-protective mother only adds to Cheyenne’s problems. Desperate to move out and reclaim her independence, Cheyenne believes a service dog is the answer. That is, until she learns the waiting list for one is up to five years.
Having lost his fiancée two years ago, Cooper Abbott wants to run his veterinarian clinic and rebuild his life. A calm, stable, uneventful life. Then Cheyenne shows up asking for help getting a service dog, and Cooper finds he can’t refuse the feisty redhead.
Cheyenne and Cooper insist a relationship is the last thing they want. Cheyenne is focused on her health and returning to the rodeo. Cooper’s heart is still raw from loss. But it could be they’re exactly what each other needs.
Every book I write is a labor of love and a book of my heart. If they weren’t, I couldn’t write them, but the labor for To Tame A Texas Cowboy was more difficult than most. Because of that, receiving the cover and a release date has been doubly sweet. Another thing that makes this book extra poignant for me is the fact that while I was writing it, Dennis Pisarski who helped inspire the idea, lost his dear Penny Lane. I hope looking down from heaven she’s honored by the character I created.
As we all prepare for our Thanksgiving feast, leave a comment about your favorite Thanksgiving food (other than turkey!) to be entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy, the holiday wine glass and snowman/stocking ornament. Thank you again for being part of my thankful list and stopping by to chat. May your Thanksgiving be full of blessings.
Good Morning (or afternoon or evening) and welcome to another terrific Tuesday. Well, I have some good news. I hope you’ll find it good news. My very first book ever, LAKOTA SURRENDER, which has been out of print for 26 years, is now going back into print. At present it’s only in e-book format, but soon (very soon, I hope), it will be released once again in paperback for the first time in 26 years. It’s a big deal for me. Lots of editing (once again) to hopefully make it a tighter book. The story line hasn’t changed at all, it’s only that it’s a bit of a tighter book, I think. Here’s the cover.
I love this cover. As I was doing the final look through on the edits, I had at the same time just received the cover for the first time. It blew me away. What do you think?
So I’ll be giving this e-book as a gift to one of you bloggers today who leave a message, so do leave a message, if you please. So, with this book newly out in print (hopefully soon), I thought I’d post the blurb and an excerpt. Hope you enjoy.
25th Anniversary Edition, publishing November 1, 2019
Lakota, Book 1
As she travels west to join her cavalry officer father at his Kansas outpost, Kristina Bogard eagerly anticipates new adventures—and her first glimpse of wild Indians. She has long dreamed of flashing black eyes, skin-covered lodges and buckskin and leather.
What she finds in Fort Leavenworth, though, is a far cry from her Indian nanny’s thrilling stories. What few natives she’s encountered have been broken shadows of their proud past. All except one. A handsome warrior who stands tall and proud. A warrior who stirs up an entirely new set of dreams and emotions for Kristina.
Tahiska can’t take his eyes off the green-eyed beauty whose graceful hands are fluent in his native sign language. But he can’t afford to let anything distract him from avenging his father, who was murdered by two white soldiers.
Though anger fills his mind, Kristina steals into his heart, igniting a wildfire passion that must remain their desperate secret. For soon comes the day of reckoning, when justice will be served…or a travesty will shatter their love.
This is the 25th Year Anniversary Edition of this book
Warning: Sensuous romance for the romantic at heart
July 4, 1833
The sun had scarcely been up an hour. The grass was still glistening with dew. The scents of early morning and of breakfast permeated the air.
Kristina brushed her forearm over her brow, her hand gripping the musical tuning fork. She was glad she had already consumed her morning meal. This tuning of the piano was requiring more time then she had anticipated. Soon the fort would come alive with soldiers and traders. She would like to have the piano tuned before it became too crowded.
She was seated at the instrument in the open air, on an erected, foot-high platform. As with most young women her age, Kristina had been taught music at a young age. But, while others played only at small, quiet gatherings, Kristina openly defied convention and played with the cavalry band.
The piano had been moved out of the church last night and set here at the head of the main courtyard, but she’d had little opportunity to tune it last evening. Besides, she had justified to herself, it was better to let the piano sit overnight. The adjusting might hold better.
She worked as quickly as she could. Because it was the Fourth of July, there would be a grand celebration today and the piano was needed to fill in with the band, not only for the raising of the flag, but also for the party afterwards.
She glanced toward the sun in irritation. Already she was warm and the day had just barely started.
She leaned over the instrument, played a middle C, then a C one octave higher, turning the wooden peg until she was pleased with the sound. She hit the tuning fork once again and struck the two notes. Satisfied, she advanced to C sharp.
The sound echoed through the fort, creating a hollow twang whose eerie song had never before been heard by the three pairs of Indian ears.
Tahiska and his two companions were awake and alert long before the sun became a red orb in the eastern sky. The journey to the soldier fort took usually a full moon, but the three young warriors, anxious for revenge, had traversed the distance in three weeks, changing mounts often, traveling into the night and sleeping little.
Tahiska’s heart was saddened still, and, though anger coursed through his veins, he couldn’t deny that there was an excitement about this day that eluded him. Perhaps he would meet his own death today. Perhaps. But he did not think so. A premonition stirred his soul; a feeling that an undertaking of importance was to happen today. He knew it. He could feel it. He had sensed it even as he had hunted and eaten a breakfast of berries and fresh meat. Yes, today was a good day.
The three young warriors had prepared themselves earlier in the morning and had washed in a creek close by, praying to Wakan Tanka, the God of all, for courage and bravery in the face of an enemy they had yet to meet.
Tahiska had formulated his plans well. He did not intend to wage his war against the entire fort. Though his emotions urged him to kill any white person available for atonement, his personal ethic would not allow him to commit such an immoral act. And, he schooled himself to think clearly. He would kill the two who had committed the crime and none else. Such was the courtesy he would show the white man. So it was for this reason that he and his friends would not wear the customary war paint into the fort. Only after he had singled out the two murderers would he prepare for battle.
No, first he would meet with their chief and ask for the murderers to be turned over to his own party. If this failed, and he had no way of anticipating the actions of the white people, he had other plans.
They dressed this day for council, not for war, and, leaving their horses hobbled in their camp, they made their way to the fort on foot. They stood outside the gates, awaiting entry.
They were, each one, dressed richly in elk and deerskins. Their shirts were made of delicate, soft leather, each one fringed and decorated with ornamental porcupine quills. Their leggings were fringed and fell to their moccasins, which in their own turn were adorned with beads and colorful quills. Slung horizontally across their backs were their bows, quivers, and shields. Their lances they held in their hands. While his two friends were dressed in tan, Tahiska was wearing white, and, when the white man acknowledged their presence, it was Tahiska to whom the soldiers addressed their inquiries.
But the white man’s tongue was strange, and only through a long dissertation of repeated signs was Tahiska able to tell the white soldiers that he and his party had come to speak with the fort’s chief. While Tahiska was stunned to learn that the soldiers were in ignorance of the language of hand signs, which was so common and well known on the plains, good manners kept his scorn carefully hidden.
They waited for permission to enter the fort. To an outsider their expressions would seem dour, but courtesy forbid them to show any emotion; their anger, even their contempt at being kept waiting in the ever-increasing heat of the day, was shrouded behind their eyes. They stood patiently, not making a move at all.
It was more than an hour later that the strange notes carried over the garrison walls. The sound was eerie, mysterious, and the Indians began to wonder if Wakan Tanka had heard their prayers this day.
As was the custom at the fur company, so too, at the fort, the Indians’ weapons were placed in an arsenal. Tahiska demanded, and was allowed, possession of his bow. Tahiska sought out the soldiers in the white man’s building and was at last able, through painfully crude sign language, to convey to the soldiers that he desired a council with the white man’s chief. Just as crudely and with great deliberation, the white soldiers told the Indians to return when the sun was at its zenith. Today was the Fourth of July, a holiday. The white chief could see them no sooner. The Indians nodded understanding and turned to leave.
As they strode back into the sun, Tahiska quickly scanned the fort. It took only a second, but his practiced gaze missed nothing—the two women to his right, one hundred yards away; the three soldiers, each carrying one firestick and a long knife; the two guards parading the planks of the garrison walls, each armed with one firestick and another long knife. He sized up the men as opponents, observed that there was no other exit but the gate they had just entered through, and wondered at the buildings along the road. The area around him was practically deserted, though there were sounds of movement elsewhere within the fort.
Tahiska was astounded at the late hour in which the fort commenced to do business. Had he been at home, he could already have hunted for himself and another family. But his thoughts were not revealed on his face, his expression guardedly blank.
There it was again. That sound. The eerie song they had heard over the fort’s walls that morning. It shrieked through the morning air, its sound more disturbing than the cry of a raven. Tahiska’s gaze searched the sky for the cause, but he could see nothing. He had no indication his medicine was bad this day, yet this melody made him uneasy.
“Spread out, investigate each tepee, each home,” Tahiska commanded, “Wahtapah, you on this side and you, Neeheeowee, on the other. I will see what sort of bird sings this song. I will see if it is good medicine or bad. When the sun is high, we meet here. Now go.”
Kristina sat at the piano bench, hunched over the instrument. She had one leg beneath her, one leg on the floor, and her skirts settled around her. The job of tuning the piano was almost done and she was feeling quite pleased with herself. Just two more octave notes and she was finished. She played one, then the other, turning the peg until she was satisfied. This done she moved farther down the piano and began to play a song.
An odd sensation swept over her skin, leaving goose bumps along her arms and a prickly feeling at the back of her neck. She played a few more notes, then cocked her head to the side, her peripheral vision catching a glimpse of a white-clad figure. Thinking her senses were playing tricks on her again, Kristina started to turn away when the clean scent of prairie grass caught at her breath. She stopped, her fingers in midair, as the earth beneath her seemed to reel. To counter the sensation she set both feet on the ground and spun around.
She had to look a long way up to meet the black eyes that were watching her intently. Her breath caught in her throat, and Kristina had to force herself to exhale. Perhaps, she decided, it would be best to stand.
Clutching the piano with her hands behind her, she stood, noting with a mixture of dread, plus an odd sort of excitement, that this Indian stranger stood a good head taller than she.
She stared into his face. He looked foreign, wild, and yet oddly familiar.
She tried to smile, but it was shaky. “Hello,” she tried.
He said nothing, his expression registering nothing, as well, and he looked her directly in the eye.
Kristina, unused to such open scrutiny, blushed, not understanding that he gazed at her so openly because he was uncertain if she were friend or foe. Where have I seen him before? Nervously, she wrung her hands, then gestured toward the piano. “I…I was just tuning it for the…ce…celebration today.”
His glance had left her eyes, was now roaming slowly, meticulously over the golden tan of her hair, the soft oval of her face, her nose, her lips, then downward toward her neck, stopping at the material of her gown as it clung to her shoulders.
His gaze jerked back to hers. Quickly he signed a greeting and Kristina visibly relaxed, for she knew this language well.
She moved her hands, motioning a response, but also asking, “Where are you from—what tribe?”
He didn’t answer, but instead trod to her side, next to the piano.
Kristina noted several things about him all at once: the fluid way he moved, as though it took no effort; the lone tooth dangling from a leather cord around his neck; the beaded earrings hanging from both earlobes, giving him not an air of effeminacy as one would have expected, but a sense of potent strength. His hair was quite long, reaching way past his shoulders, and Kristina was startled to note that it did not detract from his allure. He was probably the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“What is this?” he signed, indicating the piano. He hadn’t looked at her, but when he turned back to her, catching her scrutiny of him, Kristina felt so embarrassed she couldn’t control the flush that warmed her face. Realizing her cheeks were awash with color, she averted her gaze.
“It’s a piano,” she stated, stumbling over what to sign in reply, finally settling for “song-maker.” “Pi-a-no,” she repeated, pointing to it.
She pressed down on a key; then another and another.
“See, when you finger it, it sings.” She attempted another uncertain smile. “Here, I’ll show you.”
She invited him with gestures to tap a key, but he was not cooperative, and his face revealed no expression whatsoever.
“Here.” She touched his hand. At the contact a sudden tremor shot up her arm, causing her to gasp.
She pulled back, her eyes darting up to his, but she couldn’t easily read his thoughts. His stare was unwavering, and she wondered if she were the only one who had felt it—the shock.
He silenced her with a sign.
Neither one spoke. Neither one moved. And, for a moment, a short space of time, she felt her world stop.
The sun beat down its warmth upon them, and its tawny rays caught a fiery red highlight in his hair, reminding her of fire and passion. All at once, Kristina thought she might burst.
She turned away, but this time, he reached out toward her. It was a light graze, lasting only a moment, its intent clearly to keep her from leaving. A simple gesture. That’s all it was. Yet Kristina felt a jolt all through her body.
He motioned her to sit.
She complied, almost without thinking.
“Sing,” he motioned.
“Sing?” she asked aloud.
He gestured towards the keys, signing again, “Sing.”
“Oh, I see. You want me to play.” She fingered the keys lightly, not pressing down on them. “Like this?”
With one hand, he motioned, ”Yes.”
She played then, her attention not on the notes, but rather on the man who stood at her side. Without thought, her hands moved over the cool, ivory keys in the haunting melody of Pachelbel’s “Canon”; Kristina closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on what she was doing, not on the virile Indian watching her intently. It made no difference. Every other sense she had was alerted to him, from the clean scent of him to the muffled sound of his soft, white-bleached clothing as he moved.
Moved? Kristina played the last note and opened her eyes to find the Indian not at her side as she had thought, but in front of her, the height of the piano between them. She gazed up at him, over the piano, catching a look in his eye that might have been—admiration? She couldn’t be sure because it was so quickly gone that she wondered if she had only imagined it.
“Kristina,” Julia exclaimed, bursting onto the scene. “Come quickly. There’s news that…there’s…” Julia’s words gradually slowed. “That…there…are wild Indians… Kristina, I think you’ve discovered this for yourself.”
“Yes,” Kristina said. She glanced down as she rose from the piano. She had to get away. She wasn’t sure what had happened to her just now and she needed time alone to consider it. Without stopping to think, she quickly signed a good morning to the Indian, smiled unsteadily in his direction, and dashed toward Julia. The tingling sensation at the back of her neck told her the Indian’s gaze had never left her.
What had happened? Why did he look so familiar?
Well, that’s it for now. Please do leave a message and let me know what you think about the cover and also about the excerpt. But most of all, have a beautiful day.