Except Wednesday – Our Little Secrets

It’s Excerpt Wednesday once again! I thought this week I’d mix it up a little and highlight a book from my backlist, namely Our Little Secrets. So here you go!

Our Little Secrets

He shook his head, laughing. “I really did make a bad first impression if you would think—”

“Oh no, you made a very good first impression,” she rushed to cover yet another flub.

He shook his head. “In spite of Cold Springs’ abundance, Miss Baldwin, I am not in the habit of hiring company.”

“And no suitable young lady has offered herself up for the position?” Her cheeks were hot with embarrassment. “I find that hard to believe.”

He stared at her as if she was a jewel in a curiosity shop. “You wouldn’t if you knew the town and its gossip better.”

Her heart and mind raced. One leap of faith and she could change her life. As long as she could keep her past in the past.

“So I take it you would be looking for someone who could help run both a general store and a home.” She set her fork down and looked him in the eye.

“Well,” he mirrored her gesture and set his own fork down, “only if she knew what she was doing.”

“Someone with a college degree, perhaps, and a head for figures?”

“Yes, precisely.”

“Someone with a bit more sophistication than the locals? Who might be able to carry on a decent conversation over dinner or with clients even?”

A grin spread across his lips and his shoulders relaxed. “That would be a decided advantage.”

“Perhaps someone who wouldn’t ask too many questions about the past as long as not too many questions were asked in return?” Again she tapped her carpetbag with the toe of her boot to reassure herself it was still there.

He smiled in earnest. “Yes, exactly.”

She returned his smile and picked up her fork with an, “Oh,” and took another bite of her lunch.

He was silent as he watched her eat, his eyes dancing with deep consideration. He was struggling with his thoughts, debating with himself. She didn’t blame him. It was one thing to toy with an idea as outrageous as marrying a stranger, no questions asked, but it was a whole different kettle of fish to actually commit to it.

She let him consider, let him think it was his idea. For all she knew it was. He was the one who had invited her for lunch and he had mistaken her for one of Miss Helen’s girls. Miss Helen had insisted that her girls were brides not whores. It could have been the luckiest mistake of her life.

“Miss Baldwin, will you marry me?”

She glanced up to catch the puzzled, triumphant, expectant expression flushing his face. She could practically see his heart hammering in his chest at his gamble. Or maybe that was her own heart.

“I…I think I will.” She forced herself to be cautious, as much as she didn’t want to be. “But would you mind giving me the afternoon to think about it?”

“Not at all.” He nodded, once again the businessman considering a deal. “I’ll arrange for us to have supper at the hotel to talk more in depth. And I can reserve a room there for you if you’d like.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Michael.”

Impulsive or not, the facts were the facts. Life as Charlotte Baldwin was a disaster. Life as Charlie West would be a whole new world.

There you have it. And you’re in luck. Right now, Our Little Secrets is free on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and everywhere else. =D

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Trail of Hope – Release Day!

It’s Release Day! Trail of Hope is finally here!

TrailofHope

You can pick up a copy at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

I keep telling people that this installment of the Hot on the Trail series is different than anything I’ve written before. It’s different because it deals with slightly more serious topics, namely death. Both our heroine, Callie, and our hero, John, have recently experienced the death of someone close to them. This story is about coming out of grief and moving on with life.

I did a fair amount of research about death on the Oregon Trail before I wrote Trail of Hope. I know a lot of people have the idea that folks died on the Trail all the time and that your chances of survival were perilous at best. I’m not sure where this idea came from. Possibly from the difficulties of playing that wonderful old school video game Oregon Trail and trying to make it through to the end. The truth is that in the entire history of the Oregon Trail, only about 4% of people died along the way.

That’s not too bad when you stop to consider how many people die in everyday life for one reason or another. So what killed settlers on their way to start a new life in the West?

Another misconception is that Indian attacks were the biggest problem and that pioneers had to constantly be on the alert. While it’s true that in the very early days of the Trail and, ironically, in the later days of the Trail during the Civil War, there was a greater danger of attack, the truth is that Native Americans weren’t as big of a threat as stories have painted them. There was some trouble, but for the most part, once the trail was established, the U.S. Army was able to stop most attacks before they happened.

The exception to that was once the West began to be more and more populated by pioneers from the East. Many of them encroached on Native lands, which were then defended. When certain parts of the Trail became too dangerous to travel for these reasons, other routes were tested. If you think about it from a Native American point of view, it must have been really frustrating! All these foreign people who don’t understand your ways coming and coming like waves drowning a shore.

But I digress.

dysenteryThe single greatest cause of death on the Oregon Trail, and the cause of death I explore from Callie’s point of view in Trail of Hope, was disease. Fatal trail illnesses accounted for almost half of the deaths on the Trail. So many of these were caused by bad water, close conditions, and the lack of comprehensive medical care. The Platte wasn’t exactly the best water source around, and after so many people traveling west crossed through the same area, digging latrines that became overused and burying their dead too close to the river, problems arose.

Actually, one of the details that I chose not to include in Trail of Hope because it felt a little too gruesome to me was how people were buried if they died on the Trail. Much of the time, because there was no time to sit and wait for people to mourn, when someone died, they were buried right away. A grave was usually dug right in the trail itself, and then all the wagons and oxen would be driven over it. The purpose of this was to make it more difficult for wild animals or anyone else to dig up the deceased. Yeah, I left that out on purpose.

But really, Trail of Hope is, as its name suggests, about finding hope after great loss. It is about the fact that life goes on, which is what the whole Oregon Trail is about. I hope you enjoy Callie and John’s story!

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Words Like Raindrops – Revisited

So I was sitting around yesterday having a really bad day, trying to recapture the feeling of something that would make me happy again. I was at work, and all around me I heard the sound of typing. Not only did it settle me, it reminded me of this blog post that I originally wrote more than three years ago. I thought I’d resurrect it today for you….

My mom, very little brother, and me

My mom, very little brother, and me

Last week in my blog about Goals, Guilt, and Writer’s Remorse I mentioned that I have a daily word count goal of 2000 words. To me that seems like a modest goal, but I had a few comments from people about how amazing it was that I could write that much in one day. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, trying to get a handle on what it is about words that allows some people to be more speedy or prolific than others. I’m sure there are a thousand different answers to that question, as many answers as there are writers, in fact. But one of the conclusions I came to involves an old fashioned skill that I was forced to learn in eight grade: typing.

To me the fascination of typing began in a deep, emotional part of my childhood. My Mom was a secretary. Old school secretary. She was also a single mother raising two kids without a lot of money. There were times when I had to hang out in her office until she could take me home or find someone to watch me. This was, of course, made a thousand times easier by the fact that she was the secretary of the elementary school that my brother and I attended. Hanging out in her office was what a bunch of kids did while waiting for their parents. I, of course, loved it. Most of all I loved and was fascinated by the sound of her typing.

My Mom typed like the wind. She typed like the rain. This was the mid-80s we’re talking about. She had one of those old electric typewriters with a ball of letters thing in it. The sharp drumming of words being struck onto paper at a thousand miles per hour filled me with a sense of peace and amazement in a world that was shifting under my feet. Sometimes I would stand where I could watch the letters spilling out through the raindrops of keystrokes just to see the miracle of words being created. As technology advanced she moved to a word processor and one of the old clicky keyboards, but somehow the magic continued. My Mom could produce words as fast as I could read them.

© Photocritical | Dreamstime.com

© Photocritical | Dreamstime.com

That was the key. I used to insist on writing all of my stories with pen in a notebook. My handwriting deteriorated the longer and faster I wrote, but I was convinced that it was the only way to keep the flow. Because I couldn’t type for beans. Well, eventually I reached the point where I knew that wasn’t going to cut it. I had to learn to type like my Mom. I had seriously old fashioned typing classes using manual typewriters that looked and smelled like they came from the 1960s when I was in eighth grade, but it wasn’t until I was in college really that I got serious about typing.

Mario taught me to type. I was working as a teacher’s aide in the special ed department of my old high school. We had a Mario typing program that we had the kids use when they had some free time. I took the discs home after school for a while and buckled down. The idea of the program was that you, as Mario, had to hit the right letters or numbers to defeat the bad mushrooms, or whatever they were, that came at you with increasing speed. At least I think that’s how it worked. I played that game for hours! And I got really good at hitting the right key without looking at the keyboard. I did not, however, learn to hit the right keys with the right fingers. To this day if a typing purist were to watch my hands while I type they would probably have a coronary. But it gets the job done.

I can now type at the speed of my thoughts. Well, maybe not that fast, but pretty close. Certainly far faster than I can write things out by hand. It comes in incredibly handy when I’m in the throes of a particularly deep scene. There are times when I start typing so fast, when the ideas and images and dialog are coming so fast, that I forget I’m even typing. I’m just creating. I also have Word set to auto-correct all of my typical stupid misspellings. So off I go, thoughts spilling out onto paper at miracle speed!

My Mom passed away ten years ago this last April after an eight year battle with breast cancer. I will never be able to type as fast as she could. But when I sit down at my computer with my relatively soft and quiet keyboard and really get going I can feel a hint of her and her rainstorm typing. The sound of my keys reminds me of her, just like the image in the mirror as I get older bears more and more of a resemblance to her. She didn’t live long enough to see my silly scribblings turn into pages and books that people actually want to buy. But I know that she’s proud of me nonetheless, sitting up in Heaven typing miracle words like raindrops.

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Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Hope

Oh boy! It’s the last excerpt Wednesday before the release of Trail of Hope on Monday! Here’s a particularly juicy snippet for you….

TrailofHope

He folded the shirt and laid it aside and settled back into the bedroll, arranging the blanket over them, then pulled her back into his arms. Now when she reached around to spread her hand across his back, as he resumed doing with hers, her whole bare arm was in contact with the skin of his torso. The shivering feeling grew stronger.

“I like this,” he was frank with her.

“It’s nice,” she agreed, unsure how else to explain it.

He shifted again to hold her closer, his arm inching her chemise further up, her chest and stomach pressing against his, only one layer of fabric between them and none at all in some spots. “Would you mind if I kissed you?”

Again Callie’s eyebrows flew up. Other than a few pecks on the cheek, he hadn’t kissed her since their wedding. “Do you want to?”

“Of course I want to,” he chuckled.

He wanted to kiss her. Even though she wasn’t Shannon.

“All right then.” She spoke quickly to push Shannon out from between the two of them.

He leaned towards her, found her mouth in the dark. His lips were warm and very slightly textured from the sun and the wind. His breath was humid on her skin. It was a lovely kiss all things considered.

Then he kissed her for real, a deep, serious kiss. She sucked in a breath as his mouth opened over hers, heat and pressure. She didn’t realize until she felt the tip of his tongue against her own that she’d opened her mouth as well. It was an entirely new feeling, this soft tasting. Somehow it was more than just two mouths meeting. It affected her more deeply than that.

He stopped kissing her long enough to ask, “Is that all right?”

She teetered just on the other side of overwhelmed and took a few seconds before answering. “It’s quite nice.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Again, she could hear the smile in his voice.

He kissed her again. With her one arm still around him, she could feel the muscles in his shoulders relax. His free hand rubbed her back, climbing up towards her shoulder and pulling her chemise with it. If she hadn’t been so focused on the way his mouth and tongue tasted, she might have been concerned that her breast was inches away from being exposed, that the hair on his chest was tickling her stomach. But she was far too absorbed in the discovery of how much she liked kissing, how much she liked kissing John.

And YES! You can pre-order Trail of Hope on Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords.
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Who Were the Western Pioneers?

TrailofHopeIn my new western historical romance series, Hot on the Trail, I’m giving a glimpse into the lives and loves of several sets of people traveling west on the Oregon Trail. My particular stories are set later in the history of the Trail, but all the same, I wanted to give a picture of the kinds of people who would leave everything back East to start over in the West. So who were these people? What would really induce someone to drop the life they had to run west?

Of course, the obvious answer that we’ve learned since childhood is that these were people in search of opportunity. And that’s still a true answer. From the moment the West was opened up through exploration and discovery, Americans back East saw it as one great big ball of opportunity just waiting for someone to rush out and claim it. The land was fertile, natural resources abounded, and gold (and later silver) were found.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post. The very first intrepid settlers who made the trek west during the first days of the Oregon Trail in the early 1840s were not going for gold. They weren’t even going to California. They were headed to the territory in the Pacific Northwest that was already minimally settled by both American and British trappers and merchants. The American government encouraged settlers to high-tail it for Oregon, because the more American butts were on the ground, the more likely it was for the U.S. to claim a larger chunk of the land that was proving to be so profitable. It was about showing Britain up. Working the land was important and ports along the Pacific coast were vital to trade, but really it was an international land grab.

The Oregon Trail, by Albert Bierstadt

The Oregon Trail, by Albert Bierstadt

All that changed, of course, when gold was discovered in California. We hear a lot about the gold rush and the Forty-Niners. That was just the tip of the iceberg. The truth was that there was some gold easily available, right on the surface of the ground for those who could get out there fast enough to grab it. And many, many men did zip out from the east to try to get rich quick. Most failed, though. Too many exhausted their entire life savings trying to make something of themselves. And a bunch of them ended up going home to the East, empty-handed.

The people who succeeded in California, and later in Colorado and Wyoming and Montana, and all the other future states and cities that survived and thrived, were the ones who followed the get-rich-quick schemers and set up businesses to cater to them. The real riches to be had were in mercantile business, selling things to the burgeoning population of the West, or in ranching or farming to feed the West. These weren’t get-rich-quick sorts of enterprises, but they definitely made a lot of people a heck of a lot of money in the long run.

Okay, it’s pretty obvious that the West was populated by adventurers and entrepreneurs, folks with stars and dollar signs in their eyes. But who exactly were these people? What were they like?

As I’ve done research for my Hot on the Trail books, I’ve discovered one consistent trend that I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about before. It seems that a great many of the people who were willing to pull up their roots and chase their dreams west were (unsurprisingly) restless, ambitious dreamers and (surprisingly) quite liberal and secular in their thinking.

Mayer-Awakening-1915Yep, I think the trend is to think that these early settlers were pious and god-fearing, but all the research I’ve done seems to indicate that religion didn’t reach the West until many, many decades after the people did. After all, this was the land of gunslingers and prostitutes. There’s a reason the West was called “wild.” But it was true even for peaceable settlers in the earlier days. In fact, an early missionary heading to Oregon wrote home that she was shocked by the amount of godlessness she found in the West and felt something had to be done.

In fact, something was done, and as the great revivals of the 19th century swept in from the East, lonely settlers out West adopted religion as a means to come together to stave off the sheer loneliness of life on the prairie. But I’ll write more about that later.

The other remarkable thing about people in the West was that they had far more liberal ideas about a variety of topics, especially women’s rights. As the century rolled into its later years, settlers throughout the West began to see the necessity of all people, including women, participating in every facet of life, from farming to politics. Women were given the vote in several western territories as early as the 1880s. They also owned land and operated businesses, and ended up being used as an example of the progress that women could make once the cause of women’s rights took center stage at the turn of the century.

So the people who settled the West were some of the heartiest and cleverest people in America. That can’t be denied. The West also drew a lot of foreigners looking to start anew, but that’s a whole other story. Would you have had what it takes to start over in an untamed land? Would you have been the one to tame it?

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