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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Feral Dogs, Hexes, and Living With The Navajo

By Kristy McCaffrey

When I was nine years old, my parents, my sister and I moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation. I very much did not want to go. My dad, who has long had a deep and abiding respect for Native Americans, saw this as a chance to give back with his life. He took a job as an accountant with an arts and crafts store in Window Rock, Arizona—capital of the Navajo Nation. We obtained a house just across the border in New Mexico, in a small town aptly called “Navajo,” supported by a local sawmill.

It was 1975 and we lived in a neighborhood that consisted of generic government housing. We weren’t rich by any means, but when we moved in, it became quickly known that we had a working telephone and my mother was generous in sharing kitchen items. After a time, she had to start saying no. The charity was simply getting out-of-hand. Unfortunately, many of the Navajo were complacent and drank too much. Even as a child, it struck me as a rather depressing place to live.

View from our front door ~ Navajo, New Mexico ~ 1975.
My sister, nearly four years younger and in kindergarten, embraced the journey with much more enthusiasm. She quickly came home speaking Navajo. I, however, was in fourth-grade and only one of two white girls in the classroom. I was teased constantly, for having braces, for being different, for being pale. I became friends with Nancy, the only other white girl in a class of well over forty children, because our Indian classmates assumed we should be friends and naturally herded us together. At first, I was glad for a comrade, but it didn’t take long to realize Nancy was mean, overbearing and manipulative. She repeatedly betrayed my confidences. These usually entailed discussions about boys in class, and hardly seem of importance now, but at nine years old it devastated me. From it grew anger and bitterness, which I naturally directed at my environment. How easy it is to let this be a template into another culture.

We weren’t the only outsiders in the community. My large class had four teachers, two of which were a white husband and wife team. My mother soon began babysitting their toddler daughter, so it was natural that they would look out for me. This was a double-edged sword, since being viewed as the teachers’ favorite didn’t further endear me to my classmates. However, they did teach me separately in math, since my skills were more advanced than the other students, and one day, when one of the Navajo instructors was absent, I was assigned to administer spelling quizzes all day. These experiences certainly bolstered my confidence.

Every so often a high point would occur. School field trips were not of the normal variety, with one a hike into the nearby wilderness to view a natural stone arch. My mother, who accompanied us, was amazed the Navajo children knew the names of all the local vegetation. Other incidents were somewhere between odd and almost comical. When my sister’s little Navajo playmates would return home after an afternoon at our house, my mother would have to drive one little girl despite that she lived two doors down because the child feared a shape-shifter named Billy Blue Eyes. When I contracted strep throat, a visit to the local clinic had my mother holding my screaming self down as an elderly Navajo woman repeatedly stabbed my backside with a dull needle filled with penicillin. And some experiences chilled to the bone. The teenage girl next door getting beat up by her boyfriend, who at one point pulled a gun. The dying puppy my mother rescued from our front porch, the one I’d callously walked by for days, because dogs died so frequently on our street that I couldn’t bear to open my heart for fear the pain would swallow me whole.

Navajo, New Mexico in 1993 when I returned with my husband.
It's considered the most Navajo town in the U.S., with 95%
of its residents having full or partial Navajo ancestry.
One night, a Navajo man came to our front door with a shotgun. He said he was going to shoot our dog, believing that he’d killed his daughter’s poodle, the animal reportedly torn apart. There was a pack of rather mean canines that roamed the neighborhood—they’d already attacked me one day while walking home from school—so there was no doubt they had done the slaying. My dad had erected a barbed-wire fence for our two dogs, Labrador-mixes and not feral by any means, so we were certain that neither was guilty. (The fence was to protect them.) My dad spent several hours, and several beers along with my mom’s enchiladas, trying to convince the man not to shoot, and thankfully it worked.

I developed a panic-filled fear of AIM walkers, fueled by stories heard from classmates. I now know that this acronym stands for the American Indian Movement, a group dedicated to addressing the issues of present-day Native Americans, but in my scared mind they were ghost-like shape-shifters that prowled the wash behind our house. There were many nights I literally shook in terror while trying to sleep, fearing they would snatch me from my bed.

Our house sat at the base of a sheer red rock cliff. At times, the monolith stifled me with its presence, but it also beckoned to be climbed. So, one afternoon, my mom, dad, and sister clambered up its face to the top. At the midway point, a precipitous rock face had to be traversed and our overweight black Labrador, Raquel, couldn’t navigate the steep path. She paced at the bottom, barking and whining, while our other dog, Rommell, scrambled onward with us. The expansive view at the top, coupled with the solitude and palpable energy in the land, left me with bittersweet memories. The region drenched the soul with possibilities, but I know now that I was too young to appreciate it, to channel it in a useful way. In some regards, the Navajo themselves, at that place and that time, had lost their center as well.

The sheer cliff across the street from our house. I climbed
to the top with my family and one of my dogs.
And then there was the hex. At the arts and crafts store that employed my father, a worker found a Styrofoam cup tucked away on a shelf. Inside were various items that included a torn corner of a $5, $10 and $20 bill. It was immediately clear to those who discovered it that a curse had been placed. Soon thereafter, a medicine man was called. Since it involved all of the employees, my dad was allowed, despite being a white man, to participate in the ceremonies conducted.

At the first ritual, the medicine man found a buried pot outside the building, at the base of the famous local landmark, the window rock. This was accomplished when his hand trembled over the exact location. On the outside of the pot, stick figures represented the employees, and lightning bolts painted above indicated death by lightning strike. At the time, we were having terrible storms every day. Inside were pieces of coral, turquoise and silver, and a section of human skull.

Window Rock
At the second ceremony, a bowl filled with some type of tea was passed around to ingest, and then each employee was asked to look into a crystal to identify who had placed the hex. My dad says he saw nothing, but it was generally agreed that the perpetrator was a former employee who had been fired. She was part of a major Navajo clan, and her dismissal had possibly angered the wrong people. But the curse spoke of deeper problems within the Navajo and their way of life. The crafts people—those who made Indian jewelry and the iconic Navajo weavings—were at odds with the administration, which included my dad. There were those who wanted progress, and those who didn’t. At the conclusion of the ceremony, after a sand painting was created, the piece of skull inside the pot was burned. Two female employees reported instant relief from a terrible headache that had plagued them all evening. Back at home, at the same time, my mother said I’d been distraught and crying for hours from pains in my head, which immediately stopped when the bone was destroyed. It seemed family members had also been included in the hex.

My dad never attended the third, and final, observance—the Blessing Way—because we had returned to Phoenix. He has always joked that the hex was never fully removed. As evidence, he cites various mishaps that occur whenever he and my mother return to the Navajo Reservation: car breakdowns, money stolen, and in one instance missing a critical turnoff because five Indians stood in front of a directional sign.

I was glad to leave, but in the years since it’s been clear the experience left a lasting impression. No matter how hard I resisted, no matter how much I hardened my heart, the red rock and Navajo people seeped into the cracks of my armor, scaring me with the rawness and underlying pain, but also mesmerizing my senses with unseen forces that all but vibrated in and around me.


As I prepared this essay for publication on this blog (culled from writings on the subject I've penned over the years), it dawned on me why I've tended toward the mystical in several of my books, and why I've always been curious about the lives of Native Americans in the 1800's. Although I lived for less than a year with the Navajo, their painful history collided with my own anxieties and left a permanent marker in my mind. I've often considered that year a pivotal one in my development, especially as a storyteller. Even at nine years old, I couldn't keep the spirits at bay; they murmured in my ear at every turn. And so, I continually pursue tales that follow the footprints of those whispers.

I included details from the hex in my historical western romance novel INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS. I also explored the Navajo tradition as it related to the world of the supernatural.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day Event

By Kristy McCaffrey

Pioneer Hearts, a Facebook group dedicated to historical western romances, has a fun event happening during the month of February (and spilling over into the beginning of March). Each day, an author shares a book from her backlist along with a prize or prizes. Many are giving away naming rights to a character in an upcoming book.

I’ll be featured on Sunday, February 15th. What could you win? One reader will receive an autographed copy of my stand-alone novel INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS, along with the opportunity to name a secondary character in my upcoming release, THE BLACKBIRD (the wife of an army captain at Camp Bowie, located in the Arizona Territory). In addition, another lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon giftcard. Join the group and read my post to learn the details to enter.

But wait, there’s more. Many authors also contributed to a GRAND PRIZE, which includes a gift basket and dozens upon dozens of autographed books. These will be awarded on Valentine’s Day. I invite you to take part in the fun!

To join the Pioneer Hearts FB group, click here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Day In The Life Of A Book Reviewer

By Kristy McCaffrey

For almost two years, I’ve been a book reviewer for Women’s Adventure magazine. Because movies and television have glorified this job to such a great degree, I thought I’d share my experience. (This is where you’re supposed to laugh.)

I’m a book nerd. I always have been. Today, I’m a writer. Becoming a book reviewer was a natural extension of my love of the written word, and my desire to comment on it. It certainly suits my need to work quietly by myself.

Read review 

I found my current position via Facebook. Being an introvert and yet wanting to join a book club for years, I found the perfect combination in the Women’s Adventure Magazine Book Club on Facebook. Each month an adventurous read is selected and participants discuss it online. I love it! And not only because I’m a closet adventurist. I found I had much to say about living in India or kayaking around the continent of Australia. And because I was so chatty, I was invited by the magazine to become a reviewer.

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Women’s Adventure publishes four times a year, and while not at the level of Outside or National Geographic Traveler, it offers articles and gear recommendations suited for females. My book reviews are published on their website. I am not paid for these. However, I periodically get a goody box full of fun stuff and I receive free books all year long.

 Read review

How does it work? There are four of us handling the reviews, located in Alaska, South Dakota, Washington and Arizona. We do everything via email. The editor-in-chief forwards any notification she receives regarding a book, and we are free to pursue any that interest us. These requests come from authors, publicists, and publishers. Usually we write individual reviews, but occasionally we combine efforts and all read the same book.

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How do I choose a book for review? While we’re given the latitude to choose stories that appeal, I attempt to adhere to the flavor of the magazine. So, adventurous memoirs written by women about a female journey are likely to get reviewed. We’ve also reviewed camping cookbooks, exercise manuals (such as yoga), travel logs, a film, and reflective memoirs about life in general. And because I’m a fiction writer, many of the adventurous fictional tales submitted often are directed my way. I have also, on one occasion, found a book on my own. I plucked Alison Levine’s hardback On The Edge off the new release rack at Barnes & Noble. I liked it so much, and thought it a perfect fit for the magazine, that I submitted a review. The magazine posted it.

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Do I reject books for review? Yes. The biggest reason is a poorly written one. This doesn’t happen often. The other reflects meeting the atmosphere of the magazine. Psychology books, of which I’ve reviewed a few already, straddle this line. While I have nothing against self-help manuals, my feeling is that women adventurers would rather get out there and experience overcoming their fears rather than reading about techniques to do so.

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Lastly, I will add that I’ve gotten far more out of this gig than I put into it. I’ve found books I never would have otherwise, become acquainted with wonderful authors (some with whom I’m still in contact), and these books have stretched my imagination and broadened my outlook on the world in general. Reviewing has also fine-tuned my critical thinking skills and improved my writing.

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A day in the life of a book reviewer, while on the outside appearing sedentary, is actually a wild ride through far-off oceans, high mountain passes, and bird rehabilitation centers. It’s traipsing through jungles or hanging from rocky cliffs. It’s delving into the past while making plans for the future. It’s a chance to interpret another’s work and pass on a recommendation. And it’s a privilege to do so.

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Check out more adventurous book reviews at Women's Adventure.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Release Day ~ COWBOY KISSES ~ Old West Romance Anthology

I'm pleased to share a new anthology just in time for Valentine's Day. COWBOY KISSES is a collection of eight Old West romances, including my short story A Westward Adventure.

Aspiring novelist Amelia Mercer travels from New York City to Colorado to aid an injured aunt. When the stage is robbed and her luggage stolen, bounty hunter Ned Waymire comes to her aid, acquainted with the harmless culprit and wanting to spare the boy. But Ned also seeks to impress the independent young woman. Amelia's wish to never marry, however, clashes with Ned's desire to keep her reputation intact. When a final bounty from Ned's past threatens their future, she knows that A Westward Adventure isn’t just the title of her novel but the new course of her life.

Available in Digital and Print

What could be better on a cold Valentine’s Day than to sit down with a book chock full of stories about special cowboys and their ladies? COWBOY KISSES has just what you’re looking for! Eight stories by some fabulous authors who share with you their love stories of the old west!

In Lorrie Farrelly’s tale of love and fate, a tattered old diary sends a young woman into the arms of a long-ago Texas Ranger for A Kiss in Time.

Linda Carroll-Bradd’s When My Heart Knew is the story of young Maisie Treadwell, who has never been in love before, and handsome Dylan MacInnes, who might or might not be the one.

A Westward Adventure by Kristy McCaffrey is a story of aspiring novelist Amelia Mercer, who travels to Colorado, determined to find her own adventure to write about. When bounty hunter Ned Waymire comes to her aid, the true adventure begins!

Valentine Angel by Gail L. Jenner is a poignant story of a determined young woman who rescues a wounded lawman and then must help him fight off his nemesis.

In Gil McDonald’s story, Hearts and Red Ribbons, a feisty young woman who dresses in men’s clothes and a drifter looking for—something—are thrown together by Fate on a wet February day.

Hunter’s Gamble, by C. Marie Bowen, is a gripping tale of lost love and determination. Life is a gamble, and Hunter knows he can’t always win. With true love in the mix, the odds are stacked in Hunter’s favor!

Her Thief of Hearts by Tanya Hanson is the tale of an outlaw, an orphan, and a socialite—is this a recipe for disaster or true love?

Beverly Wells will steal your heart in her story, Hopes and Dreams. A woman on the run, a sheriff sworn to uphold the law, and one little girl’s pleas to Mr. Cupid for a new daddy!

Settle in for some mighty fine Valentine’s Day reading from your favorite western romance authors!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Excerpt from A Westward Adventure

The front door opened and shut, and in the next instant Ned Waymire filled the parlor entryway. As soon as Amelia locked eyes with him, he froze.

“Ned, I’d like you to meet my niece, Amelia Mercer.” Teddy waved him into the room. “Amelia, this is Ned Waymire. He boards here. There’s also another gentleman, but he’s been away recently.”

Mister Waymire removed his hat, revealing dark hair, and cleared his throat. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss.” He stepped forward to take her hand.

The touch was warm and his sun-darkened fingers overwhelmed her pale ones. As she smiled and nodded, she tried to ignore the tingling sensation that crept up her arm. Up close, he exuded even more strength than was apparent in the marshal’s office.

A man who spent his days outdoors.

A man who called the earth his home.

Vivid blue eyes stood out on a sun- and whisker-darkened face.

He was the perfect western hero.

“I just saw you,” she said, glad her voice sounded calm considering how her insides quivered.

“That’s right.”

He stepped back from her.

“You’re not married, are you, Amelia?” Teddy asked.

“No, ma’am.”

“Why, neither is Ned.”

Heat suffused Amelia’s cheeks. “I don’t believe in marriage, much like you Aunt Teddy.” The words rushed out of Amelia. “Women don’t need men to make their way in the world. Why, look at you? You’ve done quite well on your own.”

“I’ve never been placed on a pillar,” Teddy said. “What do you think of that, Ned? I’m a woman of example.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Ned replied.

“Did you get Billings?” Teddy asked.

“Yep. You were right. He was in Old Man Hill’s abandoned mine.”

“I knew it.” Teddy chuckled under her breath.

“Are you a bounty hunter, too?” Amelia asked.

Teddy cackled. “No, but I could be. Don’t you think, Ned?”

“You’d outgun us all, Teddy.”

Amelia sensed an affection between the two, and it warmed her heart, although this entire reunion with her aunt was far different than anything she imagined. She knew she had the first chapter of her new novel.

“I’ll just be turning in now, ladies,” Ned said.

Amelia, her cheeks still warm from being in the same room with him, met his eyes briefly then looked away in embarrassment.

What if he thinks I like him?

She imagined the type of woman he fancied was far from the likes of her. Why, he probably thought her a silly city girl. And he’d be right. But her mama had long taught her to be an independent thinker, to believe that a woman’s mind was equal to a man’s. Most of Amelia’s writings had been social commentaries, addressing important issues such as the educational welfare of children, the plight of the homeless and less fortunate, and the lack of voice the average woman had within marriage. But in her heart, she longed to pen an adventurous tale of a woman who not only sees the world, but tames a man in the process, who finds love with an equal, inciting passion in her partner.

She hadn’t told her mother she planned to write such a novel—she’d likely think it beneath Amelia—but her heart burned with the desire to share the story singing in her heart. Coming to visit Aunt Theodora had offered the perfect blend of adventure and inspiration.

Ned Waymire departed the room and his footsteps could be heard climbing the staircase.

That man was the epitome of adventure and inspiration.

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Leaving The Trail: Hiking With My 14-Year-Old Daughter

By Kristy McCaffrey

[Author’s Note: This essay originally appeared on the Women’s Adventure magazine website last year. I thought I’d share it here as we kick off a new year. While the well-trodden path can be considered a starting point, we should all have the courage of a teenager to forge our own journey.]

On a Sunday morning I invite my youngest child, Hannah, on a hike. The McDowell Mountain Preserve, near our house, has many trails to meander on, but a favorite of many is a giant granite monolith called Tom’s Thumb. It can be accessed from two different sides, but the fastest, albeit more strenuous route, is a two-mile uphill switchback. This will be our outing for the day. I anticipate fresh air, great weather (it’s January in the Phoenix area and in the high 70’s), and a nice workout, all while hanging out with my daughter. She’s never been to Tom Thumb’s, and is eager to see what others have said about it. I’ve done this trek twice before. The second time, with my husband and good friend Lisa, we all decided to take a bypass path, one that cuts directly down the hillside to a boulder-filled valley, then up the opposite slope. The trail was sparse and easily lost, we became hopelessly confused as to the best way, and ended up clambering up and down ten-foot-high rocks with no special gear. We desperately scrambled out of the valley in the wrong direction in an effort to reconnect with the main trail.

I make the mistake of sharing this story with my daughter.

After an uneventful, but very pleasant, hike up, followed by a quiet lunch with views of the Valley of the Sun to the south, and Scottsdale and Rio Verde to the north, Hannah announces that she’s bored. She wants to take the side trail I’d spoken of, and takes off on what looks like a pathway, down a steep incline and in the wrong direction. Hannah is athletic, curious, and daring—traits I admire. Of all my four children, she’s the one most tied to the land and sky, to the pull of nature. It tugs at her very soul. But at times, it blinds her to her own good judgment.

As her mother, it’s my job to keep her safe. I tell her no, that we’ll take the main path back. She stands her ground, and in true teenager form, immediately hits below the belt.

“You claim to be so adventurous, but you’re not. You’re just afraid.”

Hannah and I have one of those mother-daughter tight-lipped control fights at the base of Tom’s Thumb. Having endured her three older siblings, I’m hardly shocked by the swift turn of events—adolescents thrive on sudden mood swings and aimless discord with their parents—but I’m annoyed that she’s ruining a perfectly nice day for me.

Hannah sulks as I strive to find the well-trodden path back. I sense that this is a teaching moment, and if I can keep my own frustration in check I might be able to instill something lasting into her mind. Because I feel, deep in my bones, that she will embark on many more intrepid pursuits in her future, bolder than the one at hand.

“Adventure should be pursued with a clear mind,” I say, “not recklessness. That endangers not only yourself, but those with you. Be smarter than that.”

The lesson isn’t taking hold. She is still brooding. So I acquiesce, and tell her we can take the shortcut if we can find a clear starting point. Off we go.

For a while, all is good. There is a trail, of sorts. Then it’s gone, and we’re halfway down the hillside, too far to return to our starting point. I already know how this will go, having done it previously with my husband and Lisa. But then something happens that I don’t expect. Hannah takes charge, path-finding most of the way, scrambling over boulders, not complaining over the endless scrapes and scratches from the thorny bushes. She’s only wearing running shorts and a t-shirt. I have long pants and a fleece pullover. I cease worrying about her as I must concentrate fully on getting myself out of this predicament. We hit numerous dead-ends—slabs too steep and chasms too wide. To cross requires jumping, and I cannot jump. I’m too afraid. My daughter had been right about that.

Hannah finally realizes, as we’re sliding off a steep, gravelly slope, grabbing at sharp branches and trying to avoid prickly pear and barrel cactus, that this route was a bad idea.

At last, the lesson takes hold. But we’re still in trouble, still searching for the path, still spending too much time in the wrong direction and then having to backtrack. It’s late afternoon. I know we won’t perish, but should one of us get hurt—a twisted ankle, or worse, a broken appendage—it would be difficult to rescue us. There are many people on the main trail, but it’s several hundred feet above us. No one would ever hear us yelling for help. Our cell phones work and have signals, but it would likely be well into the night before someone could reach us. So, our goal is to keep moving horizontal to the slope, scooting on our butt if need be, but to keep progressing toward the main trail and the parking lot.

The dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship changes. Hannah and I lean on each other equally. Sometimes she leads, other times I do, the boundary of adult and child becoming blurred. I need her as much as she needs me.

Finally, we find the ridiculous, hardly-there path known as the shortcut and make it back to the car. Surprisingly, our mishap has only taken us an hour past our end time. Both Hannah and I shake our heads. It felt like five hours, trapped in the ravine, fighting the desert with nothing but our hands, feet, and mounting distress.

Hannah admits she was wrong. We never should have ventured from the main path. She takes my hand and says she’s sorry.

But my desire to impart the lesson fades as I realize a deeper truth. There is the main path, and then there is your path. My daughter, with her budding independence, instinctively knows this—to seek out her path, not the one we’re all told to take, not the one I told her to take. Our side-trek imparted wisdom—resilience, problem-solving, focus in the face of anxiety—not found on the main path.

So, in the end, Hannah and I teach each other. When leaving the trail, make good choices. But, by all means, don’t fear leaving the trail.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Brand New Christmas Scene ~ THE WREN

This never-before published Christmas scene features Matt and Molly from my historical western romance THE WREN. Blurb ~ Captured by Comanche as a child, Molly Hart was assumed dead. Ten years later, Texas Ranger Matt Ryan finds a woman with the same blue eyes.

The idea for this came about in a Facebook group - Pioneer Hearts - a collection of readers and writers of old west romances. (If interested, join here.) For the holidays, authors were challenged to write a brand new scene featuring characters from one of our books. We also shared a recipe, which follows the scene.

North Texas
December 24th, 1877

Matt shifted the two gifts to one hand as he opened the door to the bedroom he shared with his wife. Molly sat on the bed, her back against a pile of pillows. Balancing a plate atop her growing belly, she spooned a large bite into her mouth.

"Is that Rosita's caramel cake?" he asked. "I thought it was all gone." Rosita, his folks' cook at the SR Ranch, had baked her delicious concoction for the large family gathering this evening. It was based on a recipe his ma had long used, however Matt was certain the elderly Mexican cook added a few peppers to spice it up.

Molly nodded, unable to speak around the sweet dessert. Her auburn hair, having finally grown longer, tumbled out of the bun from earlier, and she still wore the deep green gown his ma had given her as a gift earlier in the week.

He approached the bed, sat beside her, and reached for a morsel of cake. Molly shifted the plate away from him. He laughed. "I can't have any?"

"It's the last piece." She glared at him. "And I'm eating for two."

Matt knew not to come between his wife and food. Having recently recovered her appetite after a long bout of morning woes, he was glad she could keep something down at long last. And now that her hunger had returned, it was like the force of a bull.

"I wanted to give you these tonight," he said and placed the boxes beside her.

She smiled, quickly consumed the remainder of the cake and set the dish aside. She opened the first gift, and went still.

"Where did you get this?" she whispered.

"My ma had it. After your folks were killed, and your sisters sent away, she went through the Hart homestead and collected whatever mementos she found. I had a new frame sent from Dallas. I thought you might like to have it."

Molly began to cry. Matt reached out to snag a crumb from her cheek. She kissed him, tasting of Rosita's cake, both sweet and spicy.

"We can put it on the mantle of the Rocking Wren when the house is complete," she said against his lips, referring to the ranch he was building just for her. She resumed staring at her gift. "This photo must've been taken before we left Virginia for Texas. I was probably only eight years old."

The portrait featured Molly with her mama and papa, and her sisters, Mary and Emma. Although she'd recently learned that Robert Hart wasn't her real father, he nonetheless remained close in her heart. Matt knew she would cherish a family keepsake such as this.

"I can't wait to show Mary and Emma tomorrow," she said.

Matt knew this was a special Christmas for Molly. After having lived with the Comanche for years, she'd hadn't celebrated the holiday since she was a little girl. And now, both of her sisters were with her—Emma had arrived weeks ago and promptly married his friend, Nathan Blackmore, and Mary, the oldest, had arrived just days ago with her husband and three children. They'd traveled from the Arizona Territory with Cale Walker—Molly's new-found half-brother—and his wife, Tess. Matt's folks had a full house at the moment, including his brother Logan, his wife Claire and her younger brother Jimmy.

He handed Molly the second gift. She swiftly discarded the paper and retrieved the item inside the box. Once again, she froze. Then, she beamed. Holding up the smooth and brand new slingshot, she raised an eyebrow and asked, "Am I allowed to use it in the house?"


She pulled on the rubber sling. "I'll call it 'Wren the Second'."

As a child, Molly had a knack for getting into trouble with a slingshot she'd labeled 'The Wren', since she imagined the rocks she used in it came from the wrens who laid a pebble-strewn path as a guide to their nests.

"These are very thoughtful gifts, Matt." Molly took his hand and brought it to her belly. He felt the babe move, and he marveled at the good fortune in his life since encountering, many months ago, a woman thought long dead.

"I have a gift for you," she added. "And I know what you're thinking, but that will come later, once the cake settles." She smiled, a bit bashful, and he grinned.

"For now, I have something else to give you." She covered his hand with both of her own. "Emma told me that we're to have a son."

Molly's younger sister had a knack for the 'knowing' of things. Matt never put much stock in such nonsense, but when Nathan—a former Texas Ranger alongside Matt—told him the wild tale of Nathan's adventure with Emma in the Grand Canyon, Matt found it difficult to discount Emma's abilities.

A son.

He leaned his head down and gently kissed the boy through the fabric of Molly's gown.

Matt had everything he wanted.

"If Rosita makes more cake tomorrow," he murmured, "I'll swipe it just for you."


He sat up and gathered her into his arms. "I promise."

Copyright © 2014 K. McCaffrey LLC

Here's my modern take on Rosita's cake, although there's no caramel or peppers in mine. My sister-in-law shared this recipe with me many years ago, before my first child was born, and I've made it every holiday since. My son, the eldest, can eat an entire cake by himself, so I make this many times during the Christmas season. It's very easy and is a great housewarming gift or quick dessert for those last minute dinners.


1 18-1/2 oz. package yellow cake mix
1 3 oz package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup oil (I replace half of this with applesauce for a lower fat version)
1/2 cup water
1 6 oz. package chocolate chips
1 6 oz. choc. candy bar broken into pieces
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan and bake at 350deg for 50 minutes. Cool and serve.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Creativity ~ Part VIII: Magic

Creativity: An 8-Part Series

By Kristy McCaffrey

Don't miss:
Part I ~ Imagination
Part III ~ Shape-Shifting
Part IV ~ Forbearance
Part VII ~ Synchronicity

Magic is the art of reaching into a deeper reality and bringing gifts from it into the ordinary realm.

We have the power to remake our world—not just in a small and intimate sense, but the world-at-large as well. But it's up to us to take our passion and direct it into creative projects. When writing a story and becoming completely immersed in the project, the very laws of time and space are changed. That is the power of creation, the power of each human being to hone something from nothing. It's magic.

What's your calling? Whatever it is, everything that isn't a part of it must fall away. To fulfill one's life work, there must be focus and follow-through in creating an environment for it to thrive. Everything must be aligned around this foundation—100% devotion is required; half measures won't work. As the inner life becomes more complex, the outer life becomes simpler.

"...our job is to make choices that create the right conditions for [our calling] to flourish. The Gift is indestructible. It is a seed. We are not required to be God. We are not required to create the seed. Only to plant it wisely and well." ~ Stephen Cope

Magic is any mysterious power that produces extraordinary results. Each one of us possesses that power. How will you add magic to the world?

"...we each...have feminine spiritual superpowers, such as touching, knowing, feeling, relating, expressing our true voice(s), visioning, healing..." ~ Sera Beak

Works Cited
Beak, Sera. Red Hot & Holy: A Heretic's Love Story. Sounds True, Inc., 2013.

Beck, Martha. Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life you Want. Free Press, 2012.

Cope, Stephen. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. Bantam Books, 2012.

Moss, Robert. The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination. New World Library, 2007.

Wrap Up
Thank you for traversing the wilds of creativity with me these past four months. I hope something here ignited a spark for youof knowing, of inspiration, of simply having a way to express a longing that won't let you go.

Now, go forth and perform your work. The world needs it, and only you can do it.