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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Naming A Series After Birds

By Kristy McCaffrey

I wrote my first novel, The Wren, more than ten years ago. I was a young stay-at-home mom with four kids all under the age of five running amuck. I'd been writing since I was seven years old, but I didn't envision penning a novel until I was too tired from mothering to realize that what I was about to attempt would be tremendously difficult, yet so rewarding. Not much different than becoming a mom, right?

I'm sometimes asked how I decided on the titles for my Wings of the West series. The simple version is that they just came to me, which for the most part is true. I've long known the titles, and the order in which they would appear, before I had a clear picture of characters and storylines—The Wren, The Dove, The Sparrow, The Blackbird, and the final installment, The Bluebird. But there are deeper meanings as well.

Many years ago I enjoyed a television show called "Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times," starring Brad Johnson. Maybe some of you remember it. A recurring character was a woman in town—a soiled dove—who was secretly in love with Ned. She was called "the Wren." For some reason, that stuck with me when, years later, I began developing my Old West series. In my story, however, the heroine, Molly, isn't a prostitute (that theme is addressed in the next book, the aptly titled The Dove). As a child Molly is quite adept with a slingshot, which she's named "the Wren" because she believes that the rocks she uses may have been dropped by wrens. Rock Wrens have a habit of leaving a stone path to their nests. This encompasses the broader theme of Molly trying to find her way home after she was thought dead at the hands of the Comanche ten years prior.

A Rock Wren.
In the second book, The Dove, I dealt with the well-used theme of prostitution. The heroine in this story, Claire, lives in a saloon run by her mama. While Claire herself isn't a soiled dove, she still faces the decisions many women face—does she live a life for herself or for others? How many times do women prostitute themselves because they don't feel they're worthy, or they perceive they have no choice? How do we 'use' others to gain our own ends?

In The Sparrow, my heroine Emma undergoes a shamanic journey of initiation while traversing the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During this process, she is helped by her power animal, Sparrow. I will admit, this novel took a strange turn, but I did my best to follow the bones laid before me and write the story as best I could. Sparrows are known as common birds who speak to the inherent magnificence that can be present in all of us. As I wrote the tale, I knew this bird encompassed perfectly the tone of Emma's pilgrimage.

In The Blackbird, I found a Tennyson quote that mentions blackbirds. The heroine, Tess, while of Mexican descent also has an Irish papa and through him a connection to Tennyson. Blackbirds are mystical birds, linking us to the world of enchantment. Tess is a storyteller, a Keeper of the Old Ways; this is, and always has been, connected with imparting wisdom and magic to listeners through the telling of tales.

The Bluebird will be published
in Spring 2016.
The last book, The Bluebird, is still a work-in-progress, but I have faith that the pieces will reveal themselves in time. This story jumps ahead several years and features Molly Rose, niece to the first Molly from The Wren. While the bird references have helped to shape the series, I always knew I'd begin with a Molly and end with a Molly, which was the nickname of my great-grandmother.







I apologize for the poor quality of the photo,
but this is Mary Agnes "Molly" O'Rourke Kearney,
my great-grandmother.


Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenaged children happen to be in residence. Sign up for her monthly newsletter or visit her website for more info.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Writing With Quiet Hands

By Kristy McCaffrey



It’s that time of year when writers often decide to sharpen their skills, test the boundaries of their abilities, and become better at their chosen craft. I recently had the pleasure of reading Writing With Quiet Hands: How To Shape Your Writing To Resonate With Readers by author and literary agent Paula Munier (Writer’s Digest Books, 2015), and I couldn’t resist sharing some of the gems within.



If you’re an accomplished craftsman, the idea of quiet hands might be familiar. Quiet hands are confident and sure. In writing, inspiration is often considered the most necessary ingredient but without a mastery of craft even the most galvanized idea will fall flat.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~ Stephen King

* * * *

What are the tools of craft in writing? Voice, tone and style.

Munier says, “With your voice, you express your truth as a storyteller. With your tone, you communicate the emotion, atmosphere, and mood of your story. With your style, you articulate your story and give form to that expression.”

* * * *

A Word On Structure
The right structure for a story is critical to its success. Choosing the right place—the setting—can make a story shine, or fall flat. Basically, there’s a beginning, middle and end (the classic three-act structure). Whether you’re a plotter or a fly-by-your-pants writer, Munier advises not to overthink this formula. Other considerations: where to enter the story and where to exit it. Setting a time parameter can help a writer focus on the necessary events needed to unfold the story. Generally speaking, the shorter the time frame, the better. The best advice Munier has on structure is to “know your genre.”

“The debut writers in your genre are the writers you are competing against. The Sue Graftons and Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings of the world broke out and found their audiences years ago in a marketplace far different than the one all wannabe best-selling authors face today. They’re not your competition; they’re way beyond that.”

* * * *

While a common complaint from editors is a lack of connection with the main character, Munier says the reason she most often stops reading a story is a lack of narrative thrust. Scenes must build, characters must be complex, and everything must lead toward a climax. So, make things happen. In many stories, not enough transpires. Have your protagonist drive this action. Raise the stakes, with bigger and bigger obstacles. Add a deadline to enhance the urgency. Don’t overdo descriptions, but also don’t overdo dialogue. Above all, strive for clarity. Bottom line—pacing is crucial.

But she also stresses the importance of not pulling back on a first draft. Her advice is to write whatever works and let it take as long as it takes.



The second draft, however, is a different beast. Munier describes it as a “...supercharged developmental edit...” It’s here that you identify themes and weave them into the story, look at the imagery and symbology of the work, and milk the drama.



Many beginning writers tend to write in chunks—a chunk of description, then a chunk of backstory, then a chunk of dialogue. Instead, Munier suggests that each scene be a “tapestry of character, dialogue, action, backstory, inner monologue, and setting...”

Embrace revision and acquire editing skills. At the very least, learn to copyedit your own work (spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, typos, redundancies, inconsistencies, awkward sentences, etc.). You may pay for copyediting or developmental editing, but as a professional you should learn as much as you can and apply to your own work before sending it to others.

Things to address in revision:
Character Names—keep them simple and make sure the reader isn’t confused by similar names
Don’t write in dialect—ever
Tone Down The Hyperbole—don’t write melodrama
Watch Dialogue Tags—stick to ‘said’
Lose The Clichés
Swap Weak Verbs For Strong Ones—weak verbs include all forms of “to be”
Lose The Adverbs—let the verb do all the work
Use All The Senses



And finally, develop good writing habits: write every day, have a quiet work space, live a healthy lifestyle. Habit is more dependable than inspiration.


“Writing is nothing less than a path to enlightenment. The best writers are the writers whose work is enlightened by experience and polished by craftsmanship. These are the writers who write with quiet hands.” ~ Paula Munier

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Great Work of Your Life

By Kristy McCaffrey

First, Happy New Year to one and all! This is a time of fresh starts and new ideas, so perhaps this post will spark a bit of recognition in your heart, especially for those who may be seeking that BIG question: What is my purpose?

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t NOT write. I filled dozens of journals, I categorized every aspect of the King Arthur legends onto notecards and filed them, I kept a log of every movie I’d ever seen. Narratives have flowed through me like the blood in my veins since as long as I can remember. So what did I do? I studied engineering in college. Did I feel it was my place in life? No.

In Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling (Bantam Books, 2012), the author delves into the idea of dharma—a concept from Hinduism that encompasses one’s character or fundamental nature, the essential quality of who we are and what we’re meant to do here on Earth. This idea isn’t exclusive to Hinduism, however.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” ~ Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

What does this mean? When you are fully immersed in a task that excites and invigorates you, you’ll come alive with energy. The endless and necessary hours of work and toil will be wholly satisfying. But if you deny the desire to move forward into an inspired task, you will lose more than just your purpose in life—you will cease to fulfill a potential that this world needs from you.

Dharma is sacred duty. How do you find this duty, this revered vocation? Within the divine texts of the Bhagavad Gita are four central truths.
           
            Look to your dharma—name it and embrace it.
            Do it full out—commit to it completely.
            Let go of the fruits—success and failure aren’t your concern.
            Turn it over to God—true vocation unites the individual soul to the divine soul.

In our lives, we’re each given a gift—you might call it THE gift, a desire within us to pursue that which calls from deep inside our soul. Cope states, “The Gift is God in disguise.”

In his book, Cope shares details from the lives of people who have lived their dharma. When Jane Goodall was four years old, she disappeared at her family home to hide in the hen house to learn how they lay eggs. This took hours of waiting. Naturally, her parents were frantic with worry. When she finally emerged, her mother—instead of scolding and punishing her—acknowledged what her daughter had been seeking. This validation is important in embracing one’s dharma, especially at a young age when we’re all impressionable to the opinions of those around us.

This is illuminated in the story of a man who became a priest, but what he really desired was to study and create music. He joined his vocation at the urging of his mother, who had always wanted a priest in the family. That he was close to the spiritual music of the church seemed to fulfill him, but not quite. Over time, he became depressed and unhappy, and ceased to be the best priest he could be. Even more, he was despondent from being near to that which called to his soul but not fully joined to it.

We serve no one—least of all ourselves—by not acknowledging and fulfilling our dharma.

When I began writing in earnest, I was filled with doubts. I embarked on a long journey to learn the craft of writing, which hasn’t always been easy. I made mistakes and stumbled, and for a long time I spent more money than I made. But I have never ceased to feel that I was on the right path. I’ve come to believe it’s not the writing itself that is my dharma, but rather the way it propels me forward into areas of curiosity. I’m simply a conduit to filter and share what I learn with others.

What is your dharma?


Monday, December 28, 2015

Reading Recommendations

Reviews by Kristy McCaffrey

As 2015 comes to a close, here's a few great reads you might want to check out.


Eyes of the Wild
by
Eleanor O’Hanlon

I picked up this book because of the section pertaining to the gray whales of Baja, a place near to my heart. And Ms. O’Hanlon’s recollections of this are spot on. But I also enjoyed the sections about wolves, bears and horses. She relates myth alongside science and observation, blending it all into a magical view of the richness of life on earth. Her eloquent prose will calm and enchant. A beautiful read for those desiring a deeper connection to wildlife.

* * * *


Capture The Night
by
Cheryl Pierson

Alexa Bailey is on a vacation in a Dallas hotel when a mad faction of the Irish Republican Army takes over, killing many and capturing hostages. She manages to elude them and stumbles across an injured police officer—Johnny Logan. He’s in bad shape, so she does her best to keep him alive. They’re soon aided by a Vietnam veteran named Daniel, who isn’t quite right in the head. The terrorist leader, Kieran McShane, is cold and crazy but intelligent enough to keep you guessing until the end. Amidst all of this, Johnny and Alexa fall for each other and you’ll be rooting for their happily ever after. This is a complex story that unfolds slowly but kept me riveted.

* * * *


Dance Of The Winnebagos
by
Ann Charles

In this engaging mystery, Claire Morgan has accompanied her grandfather to the Dancing Winnebagos RV Park in southern Arizona to keep an eye on him and his elderly pals as they carouse for women. But when Claire discovers a leg bone in the desert, her natural curiosity leads her into a whodunit concerning a mine. She must also contend with Mac Garner, a sexy geotechnician exploring the area for his Aunt Ruby, owner of the RV park. ‘Dance of the Winnebagos’ is a fun-filled ride starring a cast of colorful characters. With laugh-out-loud dialogue and a smoldering romance between Claire and Mac, this was a story I couldn’t put down. This is the first book in The Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series and I certainly look forward to reading the rest.

* * * *


Luck of the Draw
by
Julie Lence

Royce Weston first meets Paige at the poker tables when she tries to swindle him for her abusive father. When their encounter ends in a family tragedy—with Paige nearly dead—she appears at his doorstep thanks to Royce’s younger brother. Having lost her memory, she must rely on the Weston’s to care for her. In repayment, she stays on to tend house and cook for them, since there hasn’t been a woman in residence for some time. But Royce doesn’t trust her, believing her presence to be a ruse; at some point her true colors will show themselves.

‘Luck of the Draw’ is a wonderful read with well-drawn characters in a western setting. The romance between Royce and Paige unfolds slowly, with a satisfying arc. Royce is a bit of a hot-head, and Paige is the perfect foil to heal his past heartaches. I always enjoy a Julie Lence novel.

* * * *


On The Edge: The Art Of High-Impact Leadership
by
Alison Levine

Alison Levine is a mountaineer and polar explorer, and has completed the Adventure Grand Slam—skiing to both the North and South Poles, and summiting the highest peak on each continent. She was the captain for the first American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2002 and has worked on Wall Street as well as serving three years as an adjunct professor at West Point. A popular speaker and consultant in leadership development, her unorthodox advice includes: look for teammates with big egos, when making progress turn around and change direction, practice sleep deprivation, don’t try to overcome weakness, and success can be a problem.

Drawing heavily from her experiences in the mountains, she provides real-life examples of what it can mean to be under-prepared and not work together as a team. Both can lead to catastrophic circumstances, especially in extreme outdoor environments, but her insights are easily applicable to the business world. One chapter discusses ego and the need to be surrounded by people who have a big one. Not to be confused with arrogance, teams need members who are good at what they do and know it. When scaling Everest, no one wants to get caught behind a climber suddenly seized by a crisis of confidence.

She drives home the point that failure should be embraced. Not reaching a summit imparts valuable lessons to a mountain climber, knowledge that can make the difference on a subsequent attempt. Never underestimate the need for a strong network and always remain agile, both can be reasons that lead to being left behind. And, while it may seem obvious, be good to people. Trust and loyalty will follow.

On The Edge showcases leadership skills gleaned from extreme environments, but the principles are suitable for corporate cultures, running the local PTO, or raising a family. Ms. Levine’s writing style is engaging and humorous, and her expertise leaps confidently from the page. Like any good adventure writer, she seamlessly brings you into her world, making the experience personal and intimate. And, while she has your attention, she imparts wisdom that just may help you run a better business, coach your child’s soccer team, or perhaps climb a mountain.

* * * *



Wild
by
Cheryl Strayed

This book is a wrenching tale of a woman trying to find a way to love and mother herself, a journey many women must endure, whether they’ve had terrible childhoods or not. Ms. Strayed’s memoir is stark, shocking, and incredibly authentic. For that, I give her kudos. This is less a story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail than it is about narrowing one’s life so that the truest self can be found. She was a lost soul, having endured an abusive father, the death of her beloved mother too young from cancer, and her own hand at destroying her marriage. She is also caught up in heroin and no boundaries when it comes to men. Hiking the trail doesn’t solve her problems, but it does help her see herself in ways she never did before. A well-written book I couldn’t put down.

* * * *


E-Squared
by
Pam Grout

A wonderful book to help rethink one’s view of the Universe. If you liked ‘The Secret’ then this book is a natural extension of that idea. We all have access to the field of potentiality, meaning that our thoughts create our reality. Ms. Grout does a fine job of putting it all into perspective, along with a dose of humor. This book is a fast read but it will take time to perform the 9 experiments she suggests. Some worked better than others for me. I fully acknowledge that my own inner restraints and fears likely affected the outcome at times. Some of the ideas, such as looking for the miraculous in everyday life, I’ve done for  so long that it was nothing new to me. Still, it was a pleasure to read this book and experiment with the ideas presented.

* * * *


Forget Me Not
by
Jennifer Lowe-Anker

This memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker is a tribute to her late husband, Alex Lowe, who was considered by many to be one of the best climbers in the world at the time of his death. This is a love story and Jennifer shares their blossoming relationship, marriage, and family life with three sons in great detail. I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful gift this book is to her children. A climber herself, she understands her husband’s deep need to push himself in the outdoors; but while motherhood calmed those urges in her, Alex was forever caught between his passion for the mountains and his deep love and loyalty to his family. Those on the outside may never understand this lifestyle, but Jennifer shows what it means to love someone as they are, although she certainly wasn’t always happy that Alex frequently spent months away from home. When he’s lost in an avalanche on Shishapangma in 1999, she holds nothing back in sharing her grief but also the healing. Her involvement with Conrad Anker—Alex’s best friend and likewise a world-renowned climber—is also addressed. She and Conrad would marry, and he would help to raise Alex’s sons. Perhaps only together could the two of them heal their grief over losing a man they both loved so much. I’m indebted to Ms. Lowe-Anker for sharing the stories of her life with Alex. His was a unique spirit, gone too soon.

* * * *


Blood Curse
by
Kat Flannery

In the 1700's, Pril Peddler is a gypsy living in Virginia. She cares for her dead sister's daughter, a girl reputed to be gifted with the greatest of all clan powers, known as a Chuvani. To lift a blood curse placed by the girl's mother, the formidable Monroe family seeks to kill the child. Pril has powers of her own, but her fear and strong sense of protection of the girl keep her from fully exploring those abilities. Kade Walker also searches for the child, for reasons of his own. His vow to protect Pril and the girl are soon at odds with his original motives, and his growing love for the gypsy woman is an unwanted distraction. Ms. Flannery has crafted a taut story deeply embedded with gypsy lore, along with the fanatical fear of witches that permeated the time period. Pril and Kade's love grows slowly, and surprising betrayals and revelations will keep the pages turning.

* * * *


Dirty Little Secret
by
Jennifer Echols

Bailey Wright is an 18-year-old fiddle player living in Nashville and recently pushed aside by her family because younger sister Julie just got a recording contract. Forbidden to play by both her parents and the record executives, Bailey becomes the “dirty little secret” that could ruin her sister’s fledgling career. This has made Bailey understandably bitter. While her parents tour with Julie, she’s shipped across town to live with her grandfather, and she convinces him to let her play in makeshift bands that roam the local mall. Bailey is a bit of a prodigy, and it’s not long before cute Sam Hardiman recognizes it. He invites her to be a part of his band; she agrees, because not only is Sam the hottest boy she’s ever met, she also desperately misses performing.

When I started this book, I really didn’t think it would interest me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The love story between Bailey and Sam is full of so much passion and angst, I couldn’t put it down. This is the Young Adult genre, so it’s not overly graphic, but underneath is a sweetness that surprised me, especially when they lose their virginity to one another. But the real soul of this story is the deep connection that Bailey has to her talent and to her music. It’s not just a part of her—it’s the only way she knows to navigate the world. And it takes losing it to make her realize how much she needs it.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Ornament by P.A. Estelle

Please welcome Penny Estelle to my blog today. She's got a wonderful new Christmas novella to share.



Twelve years ago Jim Rustle packed up and left his home in Idaho and hasn’t looked back.  He gets quite an awakening when Lisa Parker, whom he hadn’t seen in all those years, breaks into a business meeting and uses some colorful adjectives to tell him just what she thinks of him.

Sparks fly between the two when he decides to follow Lisa home and sees what has happened in his absence.  Is the anger stemming from the present, or from the past?

It’s Christmas time.  Can an ornament from years past help heal betrayals that have festered for years?

Available at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

~ Excerpt ~

A black cowboy hat sat low on her head, shadowing her face.  Light brown straight hair with white blonde streaks throughout swayed almost to her waist.
The sign, Wagner, INC, was in large block letters above a double door that was opened. The receptionist at the desk, Dani according to the name plate, was on the phone, taking a message.  Her hair was black and cut in a perfect short bob. Dani looked up to see the woman standing in front of her.  She sat back in her chair, staring at the visitor, and finished the call with “I’ll have Jim call you as soon as he is done with his meeting, John.”  The receptionist’s eyes never left the face of the woman standing in front of her.
Dani took her time hanging up the phone and finishing writing the message.  “May I help you?”
“Jim Rustle,” was all the woman said.
The corner of Dani’s mouth rose.  “I’m afraid he is in a meeting and will be busy most of the afternoon.  I can take your name and ask him to call.”
The woman was looking behind Dani at the closed door that said James Rustle on it.  “No need.” She walked past Dani and headed to the door.
“Wait!  You can’t go in there!”  The composed Dani was anything but.
The woman threw the door open. The office had a large desk made of rich cherry wood. Opposite it stood two small padded chairs of deep brown leather.  On the other side of the room stood a small conference table with blue prints spread out all over it.
The woman, once again, saw none of it.  Her eyes were trained on the man sitting behind the desk.  For a split second, the words caught in her throat.  She hadn’t seen Jim Rustle for twelve years.  His dark brown hair was clipped short.  His smoky gray eyes were as hypnotic as she remembered.  He wore a pair of navy suit trousers, a navy vest, and a white long sleeved shirt, with the top two buttons undone.  The suit jacket was draped over his chair.  The man was more handsome than when he walked out of her life, if that was possible.
“Jim, I’m sorry but this…this woman just went right by me when I told her you were busy and couldn’t be disturbed.”  Dani was clearly distraught.
Before he had a chance to answer, the woman walked to the desk and leaned her hands on it.  “You selfish, arrogant, self-absorbed, SOB.  Are you so important you can’t find time, yet again, to spend Christmas with the one person in this world that thinks the sun rises and sets in you, no matter how many times you have chosen to put everything and everybody else above her?  Not to mention the woman who raised you and made it possible for you to go to college so you could sit in this office and be the overblown ass that you have become?”
Fire was shooting out of her hazel eyes and her chest was heaving with anger.  The two men that were sitting in the meeting and Dani, standing at the door, were watching with their mouths hanging open.  They had never seen someone talk to their boss like that and walk away without limping.
Something flickered in his eyes – anger, guilt, or maybe appreciation in what he was seeing.  “Men,” he said, never taking his eyes off the woman, “we’ll finish this meeting later.  Dani –“
“Don’t bother. I know how important your time is.”  Sarcasm dripped with every word. She turned to leave.
“Lisa,” he said stopping her.  “I see you still aren’t married.”
Lisa closed her eyes as if praying for restraint.  Her words didn’t have the disdain in them when she said, tiredly, “Annie doesn’t have much time, Jim.  Give her a break.”
* * * *
Thanks so much for taking a look at my new Christmas story, The Ornament.

I write for all ages, from the early reader to adults. My books range from picture books for the little ones to fantasy and time-travel adventures for ages 9 to 13. I also write adult stories, including family drama, contemporary, paranormal and historical westerns romances under P. A. Estelle. I was a school secretary for 21 years. My husband and I moved to our retirement home in Kingman, AZ, on very rural 54 acres, living on solar and wind only.

More about my books can be found in the following links:

Museit Up Publishing
Goodreads

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Release Day ~ Alice: Bride of Rhode Island by Kristy McCaffrey #mailorderbride #sweetromance

Alice: Bride of Rhode Island is now available exclusively at Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited program.


Read it today!!

50 brides, 50 states, 50 books...released in 50 consecutive days.

Don't miss this groundbreaking collaboration between 45 authors.

Learn more about each book, as well as the free prequel, here.
Join us at the American Mail-Order Brides Facebook page for release updates and exclusive giveaways.

Sign-up for Kristy's newsletter to stay updated.

* * * *
American Mail-Order Brides Series
Alice: Bride of Rhode Island
Book 13

Fleeing her stepfather and an arranged marriage in Newport, Alice Endicott finds work as a seamstress at the Brown Textile Mill near Boston. When a devastating fire destroys the factory, she and all the girls face dire unemployment circumstances. But hope arrives when their manager, Roberta McDaniel, shares the Grooms’ Gazette with them. Each woman will choose a husband and become a mail-order bride. As Alice’s friends—Lottie, Leora, Judith, Beth, Lessie and Josie—embrace the idea, she too becomes caught up in the excitement of a grand new adventure.

When fisherman Frank Martel contacts her, Alice can’t pass up the opportunity to return to Rhode Island despite her stepfather’s presence. Upon arriving at the train station in Tiverton, however, Frank neglects to meet her.

James Martel is shocked to find a woman at the rail depot claiming to be his brother’s fiancée. Even more surprising is her connection to a man who ruined James’ father years before. When Frank confesses that he can no longer wed Alice, James steps forward to fill the role since the beautiful young woman holds the key to avenging the Martel name.

Can Alice convince her new husband that their marriage is worth saving once she discovers his subterfuge? And will James learn that love is more important than revenge?

A sweet romance set in 1890 America.

* * * *
Excerpt

As soon as Alice had arrived at the office of Martel Fishing Enterprises, the older Mr. Martel had sequestered himself away with Frank, her betrothed. Frank—with the same dark hair as James but shorter in stature—hadn’t appeared too happy to see her, barely shaking her hand. She had a sinking feeling she’d soon be headed back to the train station.

She ruminated over what she should now do. She didn’t have enough money for a return ticket. Besides, she had nothing to return to. All her good friends from the factory were in the process of departing for their own new husbands and lives. And besides, Massachusetts wasn’t really her home. 

She exited the stifling atmosphere of the office and wandered down to the stone pier, holding her bonnet in her hand and enjoying the crisp breeze upon her face. In the distance lay the Atlantic Ocean. The Sakonnet River must be more of a tidal inlet than a true river.

She stopped and closed her eyes; for the briefest moment the weight of the past several weeks left her. Seagulls squawked, and a breeze blew wisps of blonde tendrils that had escaped her bun across her cheeks. The odor of fish—thankfully not as pungent as at the rail station—and briny air accosted her, and tears burned her eyes as she thought of her father. Gavin Harrington had truly loved the sea, maybe even more than his wife and daughter.

Into each life some rain must fall. The words of her papa’s favorite poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, filled her mind. Well, it would seem her life was drenched at this point.

Alice decided that whatever the Martel brothers had in store for her, she wouldn’t leave Rhode Island. She would simply have to find work...somewhere. Somehow she’d get by. She would never return to the home of Daniel Endicott.

Footsteps from behind signaled the approach of, she guessed, Frank Martel, but she was surprised when his older brother James stood beside her and leaned forearms on the railing. In the distance, a steamship called the Queen City slowly approached.

“Do you like the sea, Miss Endicott?”

She nodded. “If I’d been a man, I would’ve worked on a ship. I can think of nothing more liberating than being at sea, sailing to some unknown land. It must be terribly exciting.” She glanced at the elder Martel and was taken aback by the contemplative gaze he bestowed on her. The frock coat was gone; the cuffs of his white tailored shirt were rolled to his elbows, revealing muscled forearms. With his hat also discarded, the breeze lifted his tresses with the gentlest of caresses, putting her in mind of a pirate from her school books.

Unsettled, she returned to staring straight ahead before continuing. “Let me save you the trouble of an uncomfortable conversation. I’m not completely witless. I’ve gathered that I’m not as welcome here as Frank’s letters had conveyed. I’ll just be on my way, but if it wouldn’t trouble you, I’d like to watch the water for a bit longer.”

“We’ve not been acquainted for long, but witless is hardly a description I’d apply to you.” He took a deep breath. “It’s true. Frank isn’t in a position to marry you. He’s promised himself to another.”

“I see.” Humiliation engulfed her. Beth had been right—she should’ve waited for Mr. Hughes of Iowa to respond. Now, she was left with nothing.

The man beside her shifted, reminding her she wasn’t alone. From the corner of her eye, James Martel appeared...nervous. But that couldn’t be. He was imposing, stalwart, and remote. A man who seemed shaken by very little in life.

“I’d like to offer you an alternative.” He cleared his throat and faced forward.  “I’ll marry you.”

Shocked, Alice faced him. “I beg your pardon.”

His eyes met hers. “If you’ll have me,” he added.

Panic threaded through her. She’d been prepared to wed Frank. His letters had shown an earnestness towards her, along with a good dose of humor. James appeared to be the furthest creature from whimsical. Then again, Frank had obviously not been truthful. Perhaps wittiness wasn’t a good measure of a suitable husband.

“I’m no charity case, sir. You don’t have to do this. I’ll figure something out.

“As I understand, you left a situation in Massachusetts that was somewhat...desperate. Do you have family here that would help you?”

She considered her stepfather and his mansion in Newport. “No, I don’t.”

James watched her intently. “You couldn’t go back to your father?”

“My father is deceased.”

James raised an eyebrow. “He is?”

“My stepfather is still living, but he and I are distant.”

“And why is that?”

Alice stared at this man who had offered to become her husband. He was a stranger. Becoming a mail-order bride was more difficult than she’d imagined. She truly was in over her head. “I’d rather not say, sir. I don’t know you.”

His response was silence.

“May I ask why you would want to take a woman you don’t know to be your wife?” she blurted. “You’re very handsome. Surely there’s a woman you fancy.”

His piercing gaze had her shuffling uncomfortably from foot to foot.

Then, he smiled and her breath caught. He had certainly been handsome in the stoic stance she’d only ever seen of him, but when he grinned, a boyish, rakish appeal snagged her as if he’d reeled her in on a fishing line.

“I accept your compliment,” he said. “The truth is, I wasn’t planning to marry. Running our fishing fleet keeps me busy, but Frank was irresponsible in how he handled this situation, and I feel compelled to rectify it.”

“You sound like a knight in shining armor.”

She wished he would stop grinning, as she was swiftly losing her train of thought.

“I like that,” he said. “Will you let me rescue you, Miss Endicott?”

Alice didn’t know what to say. She knew the correct answer was no. But looking into Mr. Martel’s eyes, more deep blue than green, much like the ocean beside them, fate tugged at her, whispering in her ear. Life is a grand adventure. Her papa had told her such when she was young.

James Martel represented a new beginning, and perhaps it wasn’t altogether a bad one.

“Yes, Mr. Martel,” she answered quietly. “I’ll marry you.”

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Something About A Cowboy by Shanna Hatfield

I'm pleased to host author Shanna Hatfield on her whirlwind blog tour! She's got two new releases while supporting a worthy cause. Plus, there's a huge facebook party today. Don't miss it!!

2015-Cowboy-Christmas-Blog-Tour

Welcome to the 2nd annual

Cowboys and Christmas

Blog Tour!

Raising funds and awareness for the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund

Ring in the Holidays with a Helping Hand

JCCF logoNovember 1 through Dec. 24, 10 percent of the net proceeds from all Shanna Hatfield book sales will be donated to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who’ve sustained catastrophic injuries and are unable to work for an extended period. Every book purchased during this promotional period adds to the donation total. Don't forget to add books to your Christmas lists!

Something About A Cowboy

The sight of a cowboy in a pair of dusty boots with his hat settled just so on his head never fails to make me smile.

 My appreciation of cowboys and the western way of life came naturally, growing up as a horse-crazy girl on our farm in Eastern Oregon.

The fact my oldest brother spent weeks (and sometimes) months at a time working on remote ranches next door to the edge of nowhere only added to my fascination.

He’d arrive home full of exciting tales of daring that made me sit up and take notice. Sometimes, he brought along a fellow cowpoke in need of a home-cooked meal and a few days of rest before they headed back to boonies.

As a little girl, I’d listen to them talk about a way of life that seemed to be all but disappearing. They always smelled like leather and horses and sunshine - a scent I still love to this day.

When I began writing sweet romances, it was a natural fit for me to make most of my heroes cowboys. Some of my stories take place in historical settings, others are modern day, but they common thread is that the men live by an unspoken code of honor I always associate with cowboys.

With those boots and hats, it can be a lethal combination to the hearts of unsuspecting women. In the Rodeo Romance series, the women in the stories are left powerless against the charms of these hunky cowboys.

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 Here’s an excerpt from The Christmas Cowboy
  “Dewdrop, I didn’t think you’d be able to make it.” He took her hand in his and squeezed her fingers. The warmth in her eyes as she gazed at him made his heartbeat kick into overdrive. Maybe she cared about him more than she wanted to admit. The jubilant smile on his face made her glad she raced through her presentation, ran through the hotel as if the building was aflame, and pleaded with the taxi driver to put some hustle in it so she’d arrive at the rodeo on time.

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From Wrestlin’ Christmas
Tall and brawny, Cort McGraw happened to be one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. From his silvery-gray eyes rimmed with black eyelashes to the dimple in his all-too-attractive chin, she wished Kenzie had given her some warning. If she’d known what he looked like, that he was so young, rugged, and hunky, she would have told Tate not to bother sending Cort to her place. Mercy, he smelled good, too. Even now, his manly, musky fragrance filled her senses. Annoyed with herself for savoring his heady scent, she brushed at her nose, hoping to chase away the lingering aroma of his aftershave. 

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And from Capturing Christmas
 Kash Kressley was a fine male specimen in his cowboy gear, but dressed in a black tuxedo, he looked like he belonged on a movie screen. The simple lines of the tux outlined his broad shoulders and chest while highlighting the length of his legs. Without a hat on his head, she took in his thick brown hair, cut short with a tousle of finger-tempting waves on top. His scent infiltrated her senses, scattering her thoughts in the direction of crisp mountain air, soft snowfall, and a winter fire. There wasn’t a man alive she found half as handsome and appealing as Kash Kressley.

~*~
 

New Releases

To kick off the second annual Cowboys and Christmas Blog Tour and the JCCF campaign, two brand new holiday romances will release Nov. 12! 

Capturing Christmas Cover Capturing Christmas is the third installment in the sweet holiday western Rodeo Romance series.

 Life is hectic on a good day for rodeo stock contractor Kash Kressley. Between dodging flying hooves and babying cranky bulls, he barely has time to sleep. The last thing Kash needs is the entanglement of a sweet romance, especially with a woman as full of fire and sass as the redheaded photographer he rescues at a rodeo. Determined to capture the best images possible, rodeo photographer Celia McGraw is fearless and feisty. Not one to back down from a challenge, her biggest risk isn’t in her work. Danger lurks in the way her heart responds to one incredibly handsome stock contractor. Will Kash and Celia capture the spirit of the season?
Pre-order your copy today! http://amzn.to/1FC8ZQj
 
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Get all three books in the Rodeo Romance series!

The Christmas Vow CoverThe Christmas Vow is the fourth book in the Hardman Holidays sweet Victorian romance series. Columbia River Pilot Adam Guthry returns to his hometown of Hardman, Oregon, after the sudden death of his best friend. Emotions he can’t contain bubble to the surface the moment he sees the girl who shattered his heart eleven years ago. Widow Tia Devereux escapes her restrictive life in Portland, returning to the home she knew and adored as a girl in Hardman. She and her four-year-old son, Toby, settle into the small Eastern Oregon community, eager for the holiday season. Unfortunately, the only man she’s ever loved shows up, stirring the embers of a long-dead romance into a blazing flame. When her former father-in-law, a corrupt judge, decides he wants to raise Toby, Adam may be the only hope she has of keeping her son.
You can pre-order your copy today for only $2.99! http://amzn.to/1KQHhvI
 
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Don't miss out on the Hardman Holidays series!
 

Guest Author Sign

You’re Invited to PARTY!

You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party, Thursday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more (many of the giveaways will stay open until the following morning)! Here’s the link to the party: http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasparty2
 
The talented guest authors joining in the celebration include: 
10 a.m. - Carmen Peone 
12:30 - Rachel Rossano 
1:30 - Dani Harper

Grand Prize Photo
 

Enter to Win Prizes!

To enter the drawing for an Amazon gift card, Wrangler Tote Bag, Rock & Roll Cowgirl T-shirt, autographed books, chocolates, and more fun goodies, fill out this form. Winners will be randomly drawn and announced Nov. 16. http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasprizes2

Where to Find The Books

The Christmas Cowboy Cover 
Start the Rodeo Romance Series with The Christmas Cowboy.
 
christmas bargain cover 
Travel back to a time of grandeur in the old west
with the Hardman Holidays series.
The Christmas Bargain begins the popular series
and is available free for a very limited time!

About Shanna Hatfield

Shanna Hatfield 2Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with characters that seem incredibly real.
When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
This USA Today bestselling author is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Romance Writers of America, Sweet Romance Reads, and Pioneer Hearts.

  Find Shanna’s books at: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple  

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online: ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter
Make sure you sign up for her newsletter to get the latest on new releases and exclusive giveaways! Newsletter