Judging Contests and the RWA Rita Awards

It’s that  time of year when published members of Romance Writers of America are are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the UPS man. The reason?  He comes bearing books!  A lot of us are judging the Rita Awards.  This is RWA’s annual writing contest with categories that cover contemporary romance, romantic suspense, historicals, regencies and inspirationals.

The Rita entries are limited to a total of 1,200 books for all categories.  An author picks the appropriate category and submits five copies of her book for judging. The RWA staff sifts and sorts and sends the 6,000 books out to volunteer judges all over the world.  Some years I’ve judged 9 books, other years only 5.  

The first year I judged, I got the crazy ideal to judge categories I rarely read. I thought it would be fun to explore. It was . . . but I discovered I’m not a paranormal reader.  Vampires just don’t do it for me like a good old cowboy.  Now I pick categories to judge as if I’m in a bookstore. What do I buy?  What do I like to read? It’s really fun to open that box from UPS and see that assortment of books. 

My books arrived yesterday.  I’m sworn to secrecy about titles, categories and opinions, but I can say a little about years past.  I’ve had the good fortune to judge a Rita winner and three finalists. There’s nothing better than starting to a book by a new-to-you author and thinking, “Wow! This is GREAT.” 

Well, there’s one thing . . .  it’s getting the call from an RWA board member who tells you that your book finaled.  I had that experience with Abbie’s Outlaw in 2006 and will always cherish the honor and the memories of that conference in Atlanta.  The other Fillies who have finaled in the Rita awards are Margaret for A Lady Like Sarah and Cheryl St.John.  Cheryl’s finaled more than once. I believe her first book got honors, and I know there have been others. (Cher, maybe you can give us all the titles?)   Any other Fillies who’ve finaled?  Chime in!

Memory Lane with Lorraine Heath

It’s such a treat to be back here in my old stomping grounds, visiting with the fillies again. I’ve missed you, ladies, and am thrilled to see your blog and your westerns thriving.

I’m still writing the English-set novels but am excited that my earlier Texas-set novels which have been out of print for years now will soon be available (November 9) in electronic format through AvonBooks. With their re-release, I’ve been taking some treks down Memory Lane.

Sweet Lullaby holds a special place in my heart because it was my first book to sell. One night when I was working on it, my husband glanced over my shoulder and saw my hero’s name. “Jake?” he asked. “Couldn’t you come up with a better name than Jake?” All I could do was look at him and say, “Jake is his name.” How do you explain to a non-writer that characters have their own names and you can’t change them willy-nilly? It was quite satisfying the afternoon when I called him at work to let him know that Jake’s story sold. Jake put me on my career path and several years later, when we bought a house, my husband surprised me with a plaque that hangs on our patio. It simply says, “The House that Jake Built.”

Jake gave me my start in this wonderful, wacky, crazy world that we call publishing. Jesse followed Jake. Then Clay, Houston, Dallas, and Austin. I always think of my stories as belonging to the heroes. It’s their journey to redemption and love.

When I began writing Texas-set stories, I wanted to provide as realistic a flavor of Texas as I could. To that end, in Sweet Lullaby, I included a jousting tournament. The pageantry of medieval England became popular in Texas following the Civil War. The tournaments were usually held during Fourth of July picnics or other holidays. The local residents would gather as the young men transformed into knights.

These tournaments were highly anticipated and the young men would not only practice for weeks before the event took place, but they also had special costumes that they wore. Black shirts and trousers were trimmed in silver while plumes decorated broad brimmed hats. In Plano, Texas, it is reported that the men also wore a long sash of colored ribbon with a large rosette positioned where the sash crossed.

In West Texas, the young men would assume a different name such as “Morning Star” or “Black Warrior.” In the Dallas area, the participants represented their location and were announced as “Knight of Plano” or “Knight of Spring Creek.”

The track that the horses ran would vary in length from one hundred to three hundred yards. Five posts were positioned along the length of the course. Each post held a ring that dangled from a crossbar.

The spectators would gather along the track. An announcer would yell, “Knight of Plano! Ready! Ride!” and the first contestant would gallop his horse the length of the track and attempt to catch the ring using his long, spiked steel lance. Each challenger rode the length of the track three times and the one who gathered the most rings was proclaimed the Plumed or Champion Knight. He chose a lady to be his queen for the remainder of the festivities, which often included a ball or a square dance.

The British are credited with bringing this tradition with them when they came to settle in Texas. Ivanhoe was also a popular book at the time and fired many a young man’s imagination.

[Sources: Christmas in Texas by Elizabeth Silverthorne, copyrighted 1990; Plano, Texas, the Early Years compiled by the Friends of the Plano Public Library, copyrighted 1985.]

I still love reading books on the history of Texas. Texas is such a large and diverse state. I love the tough and gritty cowboy. And I love the fillies! Thank you, ladies, for having me visit today.

Anyone who comments today will be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card from Amazon, B&N, or Borders—winner’s choice.  AND three lucky winners will receive a copy of the western anthology My Heroes Have Always been Cowboys.

Happy Trails!

Lorraine

Avon Books is rereleasing all six of Lorraine’s Texas-set historicals! Visit Lorraine’s website, www.LorraineHeath.com, to see the new covers of her westerns, coming November 9, 2010, as well as all of her latest releases from AvonRomance.

LeMat Revolver – Pistol & Shotgun in One

 

Colonel Jean Alexandre François Le Mat was a Paris-born aristocrat–and Creole physician–who designed firearms in his spare time. On October 21, 1856, he was granted United States Patent No. 15,925 for a unique design of the first multi-shot percussion revolver with an 18-gauge grapeshot barrel fixed beneath it. The lower barrel was 5 inches long, and an extension could be attached to it to form a true shotgun. The shooter could fire nine cartridges then, with just a flick of the thumb, hit his target with a single blast of buckshot.

It still wasn’t a fast-loading or easily transported weapon. The LeMat was designed as a single-action weapon. Shell casings were removed with a slide rod ejector. That means no flipping open the cylinder and flinging out the empty cartridge casings like you see on TV.

The pistol was mostly a novelty until the start of the Civil War, when Col. Le Mat, a longtime Southern sympathizer, offered his invention to the newly formed Confederate government, who placed an order for 5,000 of his pistols. When he couldn’t find an acceptable manufacturing facility in the South, he traveled to France in hopes of having the weapon manufactured there.

The journey almost ended before it began. He booked passage on the British mail packet Trent, which was stopped and boarded by the Federal warship San Jacinto. The two Confederate officials traveling with LeMat were arrested. Despite his Confederate ties, Le Mat was not detained.

After a couple of false starts, the Birmingham Small Arms Company in England ended up producing the guns, which were given to Confederate officials in Britain and France, who then had them slipped through the Union naval blockade that barricaded the Confederate coasts.

It wasn’t necessarily an ideal weapon for an army. The LeMat Revolver didn’t take the Confederate standard .44 caliber percussion (and later centerfire) cartridge that was the standard for Confederate handguns. That meant anyone who carried a LeMat that hadn’t been converted to use the standard ammunition also carried specialized cartridges. Since the unloaded gun weighed 3.1 pounds, all that brass was a lot of extra weight to haul around.

The original .40 caliber above 18 gauge model was used by the Confederate Army until the end of the war. When the Confederate Navy saw the Army’s new weapon, they ordered a lighter .35-caliber pistol equipped with a 28-gauge (.50 caliber) shotgun barrel. But the contract was soon canceled.

Famous Confederate officers like Major Generals Braxton Bragg, J.E.B. Stuart and Richard H. Anderson carried a LeMat.

Le Mat’s guns continued to be popular until the late 1870s, when they suddenly and unexpectedly went out of fashion. Le Mat died shortly afterward, in 1883. But that doesn’t mean you’ve never seen one. Since reproductions are still being made, the LeMat has appeared often in Hollywood.

  • TV Gunslinger turned Sheriff Johnny Ringo, carried a LeMat revolver. Played by Don Durant, Johnny Ringo aired for one season (38 episodes) in 1959-60.
  • Jayne Cobb, a character from the television series Firefly and the movie Serenity, uses a handgun based on the LeMat Revolver.
  • Dr. Theophilus “Doc” Algernon Tanner in the Deathlands series of novels has carried two different LeMat revolvers.
  • Bruce Willis’ character in the movie 12 Monkeys was equipped with a LeMat for a time-traveling mission into the past to assassinate a bioterrorist.
  • Swede Gutzon is armed with a LeMat in the film The Quick and the Dead.
  • Inman, the main character in the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, carries and uses a LeMat.
  • Bufe Coker, a character in both the novel and miniseries Centennial carries a LeMat revolver.
  • Ezra Justice in the novel “The Justice Riders” written by Chuck Norris uses a LeMat revolver.
  • Red Dead Redemption, a video game set in the dying days of the old west, includes the LeMat revolver as an available weapon in the later part of the game.
  • Jonah Hex, a film based on the comic, with Josh Brolin playing the title character, uses a pair of LeMats in the film.

 

If you want more information, here are some of my sources:

     > The LeMat Revolver by Floyd Largen – originally published in the October 1996 Military History magazine

     >Civil War Revolvers Of The North And South by Robert Niepert

Giving credit where it is due, the Johnny Ringo pictures are from Don Durant or FOUR STAR Entertainment Corp. The Jonah Hex picture was from FirstShowing.net.

More on WYOMING LAWMAN…How History Changed The Story

In just a few week Wyoming Lawman will be on the shelves. I thought it might be fun to do a blog on the “story behind the story.”  Some books have deep historical roots. They’re based on the life of a real person, or maybe the story comes out of a real event and a “what if” question.  That’s not the case with Wyoming Lawman. The historical elements that make this book unique are all small, but they still came straight from historical research.

I ran into my first historical roadblock in Chapter Two.  I wanted my hero, Deputy Matt Wiley, to give flowers to the heroine.  The book is set in 1875 Wyoming in October. The Union Pacific had a huge presence in Cheyenne, and flowers could have been shipped in . . . but this is October. And I wanted her to get a big, beautiful bouquet. That led to research on greenhouses. The earliest greenhouse I could find was later in the decade, and it was in Missouri.

If this book had been set a few years later, flowers would have made perfect sense. But in 1875, I thought it was too much of a stretch. What else could he give her as a token of his appreciation?  A fellow writer suggested hair ribbons and I went with it.  Those ribbons worked perfectly. Not only were they a fitting gift, they show up throughout the book. If I’d cheated on the history, I’d have missed a great opportunity for a recurring motif.  

Another historical tidbit is Pearl’s name. She started off as a secondary character in The Maverick Preacher. When I name secondary characters, I go to the Social Security website where it lists the most common baby names for a year. I enter 1882 or whatever year fits, then mentally pick a number between 1-50. Bingo! That’s the name I use unless it rubs me the wrong way.  Pearl’s name was that random. Already I’ve gotten comments from readers about how much they like a name that’s so old fashioned.

And wouldn’t you know it? The imagery is perfect for her character. Just as real pearls are formed from a grain of sand, a wound of sorts, my heroine is recovering from an act of violence in the past. 

The last serendipity involves the Texas Rangers. I made the hero a former Ranger before I did a lick of research for this book.  He’s an honorable guy, a defender of justice. Being a Ranger fit his personality. When I started researching, I discovered that in the time Matt would have worn the badge, the department had corruption issues. For a while they were the Texas State Police.

My conception and the history didn’t match at all, but this is where history–if respected–gives a fictional character more depth.  Not only is Matt a former Texas Ranger, he’s a man who took grave exception to the corruption and fought it. That fight gave him yet another reason to go to Wyoming with his little girl.

So that’s some of the “behind the scenes” stuff for Wyoming Lawman. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Matrimony? Never again for deputy sheriff Matt Wiley. The only good thing from his first marriage is his daughter. His little girl might want a mother, but Matt knows that no woman should have to deal with his guilty secret, or his anger at God. He’ll do his duty, serve the town of Cheyenne and keep his distance. Yet when courageous single mother Pearl Oliver comes to town, watching from the sidelines isn’t an option–especially when Pearl lands herself in danger. His heart, Pearl’s life and the safety of their town are all at risk. Only the love and faith he thought he’d left behind can help him win his way to happily ever after.

Available for pre-order at Amazon…

Wyoming Lawman . . . Book Giveaway!

It’s been a long time coming, but Wyoming Lawman, the second book in “The Women of Swan’s Nest” series, will be released on Tuesday, October 12th.  Some of you will remember Pearl Oliver from The Maverick Preacher.  She gave birth to a son out of wedlock and had plans to move to Cheyenne. This is her story and it’s got vigilantes, a little girl who needs a mother, and a deputy sheriff with a secret. 

To celebrate the coming release, let’s do a drawing. And to make the drawing more fun, let’s each include our home state or country.  That’s optional, but I thought it would be cool is see how far P&P reaches.  Three copies are up for grabs, so here we go . . .

Wyoming Lawman . . .

Matrimony? Never again for deputy sheriff Matt Wiley. The only good thing from his first marriage is his daughter. His little girl might want a mother, but Matt knows that no woman should have to deal with his guilty secret, or his anger at God. He’ll do his duty, serve the town of Cheyenne and keep his distance.

Yet when courageous single mother Pearl Oliver comes to town, watching from the sidelines isn’t an option—especially when Pearl lands herself in danger. His heart, Pearl’s life and the safety of their town are all at risk. Only the love and faith he thought he’d left behind can help him win his way to happily ever after.

Here’s an excerpt from the middle of Chapter One. It’s the moment Matt and Pearl meet. 

             “Get back!” Pearl shouted at the mob.

            The crowd parted but not because of her. Every head had turned to a man shouting orders as he shoved men out of his way. As he shouldered past the cowboy who’d whistled, Pearl saw a broad-brimmed hat pulled low to hide his eyes, a clean-shaven jaw and a badge on a leather vest. She judged him to be six feet tall, lanky in build but muscular enough to command respect. He also had a pistol on his hip, a sure sign of authority. The city of Cheyenne, fighting both outlaws and vigilantes, had enacted a law prohibiting men from wearing guns inside the city limits. Foolishly Pearl had taken it as a sign of civility. Now she knew otherwise.

            When the deputy reached the street, his eyes went straight to Pearl. They flared with recognition and she thought of Sarah calling her mama. Just as quickly, his gaze narrowed to a scowl and she knew this man and his wife had parted with ugly words. Loathing snarled in his pale irises, but Pearl didn’t take his knee-jerk reaction personally. She had them all the time . . . to crowds and stuffy rooms, black carriages and the smell of a certain male cologne.

            The deputy’s gaze slid to Sarah and he strode forward. When he reached the child’s side, he dropped to one knee, muddying his trousers as he touched the back of her head. “Sarah, honey,” he said with a hush. “Look at me, darlin’”

            Pearl heard Texas in his voice . . . and love.

            The child peeked from the folds of her skirt. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I was bad.”

            “Are you hurt?”

            She shook her head, but her father wasn’t convinced. He ran his hand down the child’s back, looked at her muddy knees and inspected her elbows. Apart from the scare, Sarah and her doll were both fine. Pearl watched as he blew out a breath, then wiped the girl’s tears with his thumb. When Sarah turned to him, he cupped her chin. “You shouldn’t have left the store.”

            He’d put iron in his voice, but Pearl knew bravado when she heard it. He’d been scared to death.

            Sarah hid her face in Pearl’s skirt. “I know, Daddy. But I saw a puppy.”

            The man frowned. “Sarah–”

            “Then I saw her.” She raised her chin and stared at Pearl.

            Instinctively Pearl cupped the back of Sarah’s head. She’d been close to grown when her own mother died, but she missed her every day, even more since Toby’s birth. If she’d caught a glimpse of Virginia Oliver in a crowd, she’d have acted just like Sarah.

            The deputy pushed to his full height, giving her a closer look at his clean-shaven jaw. Most men in Cheyenne wore facial hair, but the deputy didn’t even sport a moustache. He had a straight nose, brown hair streaked with the sun and the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. If her life had been simpler, she’d have smiled at him, even flirted a bit. Instead she pulled her lips into an icy line. Until she secured the job at Miss Marlowe’s School, she didn’t want to speak with anyone.

            He took off his hat, a sign of respect that made her belly quake because she longed to feel worthy of it. The intensity in his eyes had the same effect but for different reasons. He frightened her.

            “I can’t thank you enough, Miss.” His drawl rolled like a river, slow and unstoppable. “I was in the store. I had an eye on her, and then . . .” He sealed his lips. “The next thing I knew, someone said a child was down in the street.”

            Pearl knew how he felt. Toby had suffered a bout of croup and she’d been worried to death. Her heart swelled with compassion, but she blocked it. “As you can see, your daughter’s fine. If you’ll excuse me–”

            “But I owe you.”

            “No, you don’t.” She tried to step back, but Sarah tightened her grip.

            The man skimmed her dress the way he’d inspected his daughter for injuries. “Your dress is ruined. I’ll buy you a new one.”

            “No!” She could only imagine what kind of talk that would cause.

            Instead of backing off, the lawman thrust out his hand. “Forgive my lack of manners. I’m Matt Wiley, Deputy Sheriff.”

            If she accepted the handshake, she’d have to give her name. She’d be trapped in a conversation she couldn’t have until she spoke with Carrie and the school board. The less she said to this man, the safer she’d be. She indicated her muddy glove. “I don’t want to dirty your hand. I have to go now.” Before he could argue, she pivoted and headed for the hotel.

            “Wait!”

            The cry came from Sarah. Every instinct told Pearl to hug the child goodbye, but she couldn’t risk a conversation with the girl’s father. Walking faster, she skirted a puddle and stepped on to the boardwalk. Thinking of Toby, her father and the new life she wanted for them all, she hurried to the hotel.

 

Hope you all enjoy the book! Be sure to leave a comment with your name and home state or country. Winners will be announced later tonight.

Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon”: A Rather Big Baby

We’ve had such fun looking at pocket pistols and revolvers, I thought I’d share another I ran across: The Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon.” Many consider this to be the first true hideout gun.

The Colt Model 1848 Baby Dragoon Revolver was manufactured in Hartford from circa l847 through to 1850 with a total of about 15,000 produced. A .31 caliber weapon, this baby held five shots in its cylinder.

In order to cut back on the weight of the gun, the loading lever was removed from under the barrel and the front sight was scaled down to a tiny bead. This also helped make the gun more “snag-free”, meaning it was less likely to catch in the lining of the pocket or purse when drawn. Rather important if you wanted to get the drop on a bad guy.

The one on the left has no loading lever; the one on the right does. See it, under the barrel?

The five-shot Baby Dragoon was a scaled down version of the large dragoon revolvers, and were manufactured with barrel lengths of 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″ and a distinctive square-back trigger-guard.  The 3” and 4” are reasonable for a pocket revolver, but a 5 or 6” barrel, plus the cylinder and polished wood grip–not exactly a miniature weapon.

The “Baby Dragoon” pistol was more accurate and more powerful than earlier pocket guns, and their lighter weight made them the weapon of choice for Pony Express riders, and the Wells Fargo Company.

Want more info? Check out Colt’s Pocket ’49: Its Evolution, Including the Baby Dragoon & Wells Fargo by Robert M. Jordan & Darrow M. Watt. The book is out of print, but you might be able to find a copy through your local library.

THE NAME GAME

I am a collector of names.  Have been, ever since I was a kid.  Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself.  Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different.  Cheryl.  My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it.  The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit.  Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common.  Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes.  According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were:  John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four.  In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’ 

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’  James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond.  James Bond.’  At least, it does for me.  I could even go with Jamie.  Charles is pushing it.  George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero.  They’re somehow just too ordinary.  Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper.  Henry…eh.  And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980.  Here are the top 10:  Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph.  Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position.  By 2009, only William remained in the top 10.  John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13.  The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2009:  Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something.  If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices!  We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names.  Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records.  If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit.  And who knows?  You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud.  Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using?  Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Jed Dooly” may not be good choices.  Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.

2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it.  Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple.  Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.

3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline?  If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name.  In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed.  His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon.  He is known as Thomas in the story.  Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon.  He goes by Johnny.  This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships.  It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it.  They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth.  She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of.  What do your characters’ names mean?  This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.

5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think.  You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something.  Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, Fire Eyes, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner.  I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name.  I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of.  Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation.  It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available  through The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  I hope you enjoy!

EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:

Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and   unconscious by the Choctaw Indians.  This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

 “Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

                                                                        *******

From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Yeah.”

She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.

“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.
Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.

HOWDY FROM A NEW FILLY

Hi everyone!  I’m Cheryl Pierson (Cheryl #2 here at P&P)!  This is my first “official” post as a new filly, and I’m very excited to be here at Petticoats & Pistols in such great company!  I’ve done a couple of guest posts in the past, and from the moment I began to get to know my “fellow fillies,” I knew I wanted to be here amongst ya!

I won’t bore you with too many details–just want to tell you a little about me and I’d love to hear about you all, too.  I was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1957.  I had two “way older” sisters (10 and 12 when I came along) and I was a Tomboy–with a capital “T” for sure!  Although I loved Barbie, I’d much rather have been playing cowboys and Indians–probably why I chose to write western historicals.

I finally got to go to a rodeo when I was about 9 with my cousin, and Larry Mahan was there!  I was in love.  After that, I wanted to be a barrel racer, thinking that would be a great way to get those handsome cowboys to notice me when I was older…of course, that was a huge pipe dream since my family was NOT into rodeoing at all.  But my first “serious” little story I wrote in elementary school had a guy in it named “Larry” and girl named “Cherry” (original, huh?)

My dad was an oilfield hand–a chemical engineer, on call 24/7 for as long as I can remember.  Mom was the “June Cleaver” type, and both of them were appalled when I told them I wanted to write books for a living.  As they predicted, that dream had to be placed on hold for many years–enough time for me to marry and raise my two kids–with a myriad of “real jobs” (as others called them) in between.

But I was writing all the time, every spare minute I got.  I started out with an idea for a western romance, and the more I wrote, the bigger the story became, until I had a 1000 page manuscript!  Of course, it’s still unsold (go figure!) but it’s the book of my heart–and I know each of you has written a book that holds that special place in your heart, as well.  That was what I needed to “get me going.”  Ideas flowed, and so did the words.

Although that first “tome” is still as yet unpublished, the third book I wrote, FIRE EYES, was published in May 2009, and went on to become an EPIC Award finalist.  The Wild Rose Press also published two of my western short stories, and my first contemporary romantic suspense, SWEET DANGER, will be released on October 1.

The fourth book I wrote, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, was published through another smaller press.  After a few short months, we parted ways, and TIME PLAINS DRIFTER is homeless again. My daughter designed my cover for this book so it’s very special to me.  It also garnered me the award of Honorable Mention for Best New Paranormal Author in PNR’s PEARL Awards this year.

Right now, I am waiting (on pins and needles) to hear back from Berkley about one of my manuscripts that’s under consideration with them.  GABRIEL’S LAW was the third place recipient in this year’s historical category in the San Antonio Romance Authors’ Merritt Contest.  The judge for that final round asked for the full manuscript. It’s been thirty-five days, six hours and fourteen minutes…but who’s counting?

I live in Oklahoma City with my “transplanted” (from West Virginia) husband, Gary, who plans to make good on his threat to retire this fall.  My daughter, Jessica, is 23 and works at an actors’ casting agency here.  My son, Casey, is 20 and a physics major in college (and believe me, those math and science genes did not come from me!)  Along with my business partner, I teach writing classes for all ages, and have done lots of work with the Indian Education Program for one of the major school systems here in OK City.  And I’m FINALLY getting to actually write! 

Thank you all so much for your warm welcome and your generous friendships.  I am thrilled to be here–a “regular filly!”

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of my short stories,  A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES. 

When a wounded drifter and three children appear at her doorstep, widow Angela Bentley can’t turn them away.  Nick Dalton has a dangerous reputation, but is it truly deserved, or is it just talk?  Will love find two lonely people on this, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES?

FROM “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES”:

Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

http://www.cherylpierson.com