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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Trail Of Bread Crumbs: Bicycling Through Western France

 By Kristy McCaffrey

On the second day of a bike tour through the French countryside of Brittany and Normandy, the differences in navigating style between my husband and I come to light. Our tour company—Backroads—has provided us with excellent equipment and enthusiastic guides. Each morning, we’re given a detailed itinerary of the ride for that day. It includes odometer readings and very specific instructions for EVERY turn we must take. Over a 20-mile ride, the list is well over a hundred directions.

I almost laughed out loud the first day we received these. This is far too complicated, I thought. I’ll just follow the person in front of me. Well, turns out I was the slowest of the group. My husband very graciously rode with me, but that meant we had to find our path ourselves. My odometer never worked, so I relied on visual cues. He was devoted to technology. Naturally there came a time when we got lost, and our differing approaches required negotiating. I’m happy to report, however, that our marriage was strong enough to handle this, and we only took a wrong turn five times.

In an effort not to slow my husband and I down further, I
attempted to photograph while riding. This was
the result. Luckily, I crashed into a soft wheat field.

We were invited on this grueling (I mean fun) vacation by my husband’s brother and his wife, Pat and Anne. Whenever an opportunity enters my experience that I’d never before considered, I know that I must pay attention. If not, I’ll miss those bread crumbs along the way. You know, those unexpected moments that occur—those connections, those insights, those meaningful encounters.

My husband, myself, Anne and Pat in
St. Suliac, France.
“Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.”
                        ~ Glauco Ortolano

Shamans say that everything in the world has a voice. A bike tour, as opposed to a bus or car tour, places you front and center with the earth beneath you, the wild wind around you, and the sunshine warming you. The intensive exercise breaks you down, both physically and mentally, and within these cracks will enter the lush, green, fully-alive French countryside, vibrating in your bones and beckoning you to connect.

Each day, we rode approximately 20 miles, either in the morning or the afternoon, depending on what sites there were to see. There was always a longer option, usually an additional 20 miles, for those desiring more. We did occasionally ride on busy roads—and I won’t lie, these were nerve-wracking—but we were, for the most part, on backroads winding through picturesque farmland. The tour company’s name is appropriate.

My early bread crumbs consisted mainly of horses and cows. Roaming in pastureland, they live an idyllic life and I stopped more than once to take a photograph and perhaps become acquainted. I had no idea I’d make so many animal friends on this trip. On the second day, I coasted down a long hill and met this lovely guy at the bottom.

Here are a few more of my French amis.

The milk from these cows will be used
to make the famous Camembert cheese.

We began our trip in St. Malo, a walled port city on the English Channel and apparently the jogging mecca of Europe, if all the runners passing us on the beach—and some were quite old—was any indication. St. Malo was known in the past as the home of French privateers, or pirates. I did keep my eye out for Captain Jack Sparrow.

St. Malo, France.

View from our hotel window our first morning
in St. Malo.

He joined us for breakfast.

We explored quaint towns such as Dinan (dating back to the 13th century), entering on a bike path that paralleled the River Rance, a salt water estuary. It was here that we enjoyed a Breton mainstay, a crepe known as a gallete. Delicious and very filling. We also experienced the sometimes spotty service of French waiters. I can honestly say that I’ve met some of the nicest people in all of my travels while in France, but alongside that has been some of the worst restaurant service. Be prepared to switch eating establishments occasionally so you don’t go hungry.

Dinan, France.

In Normandy, we spent two nights in the town of Bayeux, founded as a Gallo-Roman settlement in the 1st century B.C. and bisected by the River Aure. A magnificent gothic cathedral, consecrated in 1077, anchors the town but even more famous is the Bayeux tapestry, an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters long. It commemorates the Norman conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror, constituting storytelling for the masses who couldn’t read. (I wish I had a picture but no photography was allowed.)

The River Aure.

All we had to do was walk out of our hotel to our waiting bikes. Bliss.

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux.

My husband and his brother.

Two significant bread crumbs on this journey were the opportunity to visit Mont St. Michel and the famed Normandy beaches of D-Day.

Mont St. Michel is a monastery dating back to the 8th century. Before that, it was an island known as Mont Tombe. According to legend, in 708 A.D. the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and instructed him to build a church. Today, it is one of the most visited landmarks in France. Our tour revealed that an entire village is situated within the lower levels of Mont St. Michel, complete with hotels, restaurants and gift shops. If you ever drop in, I suggest making a weekend of it.

The magnificent Mont St. Michel.

The cloister in Mont St. Michel.

The view from Mont St. Michel.

I was quite unprepared for the emotional impact of visiting the Normandy beaches that witnessed the invasion by Allied forces on June 6, 1944. I knew it would be humbling, sobering, and sad. A great wound continues to pulsate, and each visitor is called upon to add a prayer, a loving embrace, to the restless and dedicated spirits that are still present. If you listen closely, you can hear the whispers of pain, but also the resolve of courage, and there is a blessed abundance of peace to be found. The monuments, the cemeteries, and the museums all honor and pay respect to one of the darkest periods of humanity. But despite the deep thread of grief, you leave feeling uplifted. Alongside great evil is always great goodness, and it shines brightly here.

View of Utah Beach from Pointe du Hoc. This was a German fortified
area that was taken on D-Day by a U.S. Army Ranger Assault Unit.

A section of Mulberry Harbor, a portable, temporary harbor built by
the British in World War II to aid the Allied invasion of Normandy
on June 6, 1944.

Our guide, Sophia, and my husband riding along Omaha Beach.
The wind blew stinging sand into every crevice not protected and
we rode nearly standing still.

Me at Omaha Beach. Blustery hardly
describes the windy conditions.

The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
This is considered U.S. soil. Only about 1/3 of
those killed before, during, and after D-Day
are buried here. Many families chose to bring
their loved ones home.
The Caen Memorial War Museum.

On the final day, our group shared a picnic lunch at the Caen Memorial War Museum. It was simple, colorful, and prepared with consideration by our guides. Good food, good friends, and gratitude. All vacations should be filled with such. Always be on the lookout for those bread crumbs.

Our lovely group of guests and guides.

“Instructions for living a life.
  Pay attention.
  Be astonished.
  Tell about it.”

            ~ Poet Mary Oliver

Smile. You're in France.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reading Alley Grand Opening Celebration! #ReadingAlleyEvent

I wanted to share this wonderful new site with you all. If you're an avid reader and enjoy writing reviews, this is a great opportunity to receive free books. Enjoy! ~ Kristy


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On June 19, Week 2 of our Weekly Contest goes live. Answer 3 questions and get a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card! Each week, we will have different winners, for a total of 12 winners by the time the party is over.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Science Facts

By Kristy McCaffrey

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth have published a study that women wearing high heels are more attractive to men than women who don’t. High heels require a slightly adjusted way of walking, one that involves shorter steps and more hip movement, giving women a more feminine gait.

Mice permanently lose their fear of felines following infection with a parasite that cats carry. The brazen behavior carries on long after the infection clears.

Snow leopards have low levels of genetic diversity, nearly half that of the other big cat species. Low genetic diversity can be a sign that a species is headed toward extinction.

Physical order produces healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality, whereas disorder produces creativity.

Researchers have known for decades that if you cool liquid helium just a few degrees below its boiling point of -452 degrees Fahrenheit (-269 degrees Celsius) it will suddenly be able to do things that other fluids can't, like dribble through molecule-thin cracks, climb up and over the sides of a dish, and remain motionless when its container is spun.

Identical twins aren't completely the same, and it's not due to differences in nurturing. Geneticist Carl Bruder of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his colleagues closely compared the genomes of 19 sets of identical adult twins. In some cases, one twin's DNA differed from the other's at various points on their genomes. At these sites of genetic divergenct, one bore a different number of copies of the same gene, a genetic state called copy number variants.

When feeding, leeches use their suckers to attach to their hosts, releasing an anesthetic, which helps prevent them from being detected as well as serving as an anticoagulant, which prompts continued bleeding.

A 20-ounce bottle of cola contains the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes.

The scientists who discovered sucralose (now sold as Splenda) were originally trying to create an insecticide. An assistant thought he had been instructed to "taste" a compound he'd only been asked to "test."

Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates, the most abundant type of organic molecules in living things.

Researchers at Queen Mary University and Imperial College London report that exposing solar cells to pop music makes them convert sunlight into electricity up to 50 percent more efficiently. Solar cells, expensive to produce, create up to 40 percent more electricity while listening to the higher pitches found in pop and rock music. Similar test conducted with classical music, typically of darker tones than pop, did not yield the same beneficial effects.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Raising My Children

By Kristy McCaffrey

This week, I have another child graduating from high school. What do I know about parenting? Mostly, it’s a very humbling endeavor. I’ve made many mistakes, out of both love and anger, but thankfully, children are resilient little creatures. Here’s a few words of wisdom.

Katy graduating from Kindergarten.
Today, she graduates from high school.

When children are young, hide the permanent markers.

If you’ve just cleaned your kitchen floor, don’t serve grape juice for lunch.

Crayons make great snacks.

You’ll acquire the most gray hair during the terrible two’s and the teenage years.

My son Ben at age 2. Today, he's 19.

Keep a baby book and describe the personality of your child when they’re young. You’ll be shocked by how it doesn’t change over the years.

My children are a part of me, but in so many ways, they’re not like me. My assumption that they would think and behave in similar ways to myself has led to misunderstandings, fighting, and unnecessary struggles at school. If possible, try to lift that lens through which you view your children and see who they really are. Proceed accordingly.

When separated from their siblings for weeks and months at a time, my children become much nicer individuals. It’s like shining a light into their soul. Sweet love.

My youngest, Hannah, at 9 months old.
She'll be driving soon.

Telling your children that you’ll no longer do their laundry doesn’t work. A full-blown strike is required to ignite a love of clean clothes. (This goes for ironing, too.)

When, oh when, will cell phones be made with shatterproof glass?

You’ll never decipher why they listen to some of your advice and completely ignore other helpful hints you try to throw their way. So, keep blabbing away!

When my oldest son was born premature, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit gave me guidance—don’t waste what time you have with your child. You don’t know how long you have. Make the most of every day.

My son Sam in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Magee-Women's
Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He's about to turn 21.

And finally, let them go. I’m still working on this.

Mi familia in Scotland.

Monday, May 4, 2015

New Release - The Blackbird by Kristy McCaffrey

I'm so pleased to announce that Book Four in my Wings of the West series, The Blackbird, is now available in digital formats!!

Historical Western Romance
Rating: Steamy

Arizona Territory 1877

Bounty hunter Cale Walker arrives in Tucson to search for J. Howard “Hank” Carlisle at the request of his daughter, Tess. Hank mentored Cale before a falling out divided them, and a mountain lion attack left Cale nearly dead. Rescued by a band of Nednai Apache, his wounds were considered a powerful omen and he was taught the ways of a di-yin, or a medicine man. To locate Hank, Cale must enter the Dragoon Mountains, straddling two worlds that no longer fit. But he has an even bigger problem—finding a way into the heart of a young woman determined to live life as a bystander.

For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men. Continuing the traditions of her Mexican heritage, she has honed her skills as a cuentista, a storyteller and a Keeper of the Old Ways. But with no contact from her father since the attack, she fears the worst. Tess knows that to reenter Hank Carlisle’s world is a dangerous endeavor, and her only hope is Cale Walker, a man unlike any she has ever known. Determined to make a journey that could lead straight into the path of her attacker, she hardens her resolve along with her heart. But Cale makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love.

First Kiss Excerpt

After they ate and cleaned up, Tess excused herself and went behind the mesquite for privacy, limping but determined to not use her cane. After attending to personal matters, she paused to watch the still nearly-full moon shining brightly in the starry sky. The horses snorted nearby, and she went to them for a brief visit. Gideon happily greeted her with a nudge, and to Tess’s surprise, so did Bo. 

She reveled in the affection of the two boys, but when she moved to Moses he rebuffed her, which also made her smile.

“I can respect that,” she whispered.

As she walked back toward Cale and the fire, her foot caught on a rock and she tripped. Falling to the side, she landed hard against a boulder with her injured leg. She must have screamed because Cale appeared within seconds.

“What happened?” he asked. “I was getting concerned when you didn’t return.”

“Nothing.” Hating her weakness, she tried to push his hands away and stand, but her leg gave out. He caught her and held her upright. “I just fell, that's all. I'll be fine. Just give me a moment.”

Cale lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the fire. He settled her atop her pallet and knelt before her. “Tess, will you let me have a look at it?”

Panic swept her. “No.”

“What are you afraid of? That I haven't seen anything so hideous before?”

A response clogged her throat.

He removed his vest, then began unbuttoning the placket on his blue chambray shirt. Alarm snaked down her spine. “What...what are you...”

“I want to show you my injury.”

“Oh.” She really couldn't reconcile her ambivalence. On the one hand, any overture by a man that came close to indicating sexual contact set her heart to pounding and filled her with an overwhelming urge to flee. On the other, slivers of curiosity sometimes whispered in her ear, of what it could be like with a man who cared, of what hidden magic such contact could hold. She carried many stories in her repertoire, and there had been those of wild, desperate longings between a man and a woman, of a love so fierce it changed the world. Could those tales be believed? What would it be like to love a man such as Cale?

He pulled his shirt over his head, and shifted to face her better. Her eyes settled onto his right shoulder. Mottled and disfigured, it was covered with scars intersecting like a spider's web. More marks ran across his chest and ribs, prohibiting the growth of hair in places. He twisted his torso to show her a large, disfigured patch of injured flesh just above his trousers.

“The attack must have been thorough,” she whispered, stunned by what she saw. “Are you in any pain?”

“At times, but it's almost a phantom pain, pulsing with a memory of what it once was.”

She nodded, understanding. “Did it reach the muscle?”

“Some. I can't rotate my arm completely.”

“How can you shoot?”

“It's not bad now. I became proficient using my left arm, for many things.”

She swallowed down her reticence, and pulled the skirt to her waist along with the petticoat. Unable to look at Cale, she kept her gaze down. She brought the drawers as high as she could then rolled the stocking to the edge of her boot so that Cale could see her leg.

He shifted closer and brought a large hand to the side of her calf, causing an involuntary flinch from her.

“Easy.” He studied her leg in the firelight.

She tried to suppress her unease, but her body began to tremble. Shifting her focus to his close proximity, she studied his wide shoulders, noticing the sheen of sweat on his muscled arms. Despite his disfigurement, it was obvious he was a strong man. It both unnerved and drew her in.

He brought his other hand to her leg and the warmth of his touch spread across her skin. As he gently probed the long-healed injury, the shaking of her body increased. Her heart drummed swiftly in her chest, and she struggled to breathe.

Cale brought his gaze to hers, and for a moment their eyes locked. The sadness reflected back caught her unaware.

“Tess, I'm not going to hurt you.” He gently repositioned her stocking, then the pantalets, then the skirt, and scooted away from her. He donned his shirt.

Tension began to drain from her, replaced by a bone-draining exhaustion. “I know.” She’d barely gotten the words out.

“Your leg doesn't look that bad.” Using a stick, he pushed the burning fire around a bit.

Tess tried to suppress the tears, but one slid down her cheek. Thankfully, Cale pretended not to notice.

“The injury is much more than the leg,” she said thickly.

He did look at her now, but she kept her eyes on the flames before her.

“You can recover from that, too.”

She hung her head. “How?” The sob escaped before she could stop it.

“What do you dream about?”

She wiped at her face and frowned. “I'm not sure what you mean.”

“What do you normally dream about?”

“I dream of mi abuela.” She shifted her injured leg to a bent position. It was sore but this sometimes helped the pulsating pain to abate. “I dream of her a lot, actually. I also dream of Hank. Those are usually angry, or rather I'm very angry. I act the role of a shrew. And I dream of...Saul. I don't like those. I try not to remember them.”

“The Apache believe dreams are much more than just stories in our heads at night,” Cale said. “Actually, I've met many Indians—and some gringos—who believe the same. Within dreams we can sometimes make peace in a way we can't do in the waking world.”

“How would I do that?”

“Next time you're with Miller, try to move in the dream differently than you normally do. Try to be more decisive. Maybe fight back.”

Rage flared inside her in an instant. “I fought back.”

“No, that's not what I meant.” He held up his hand. “I'm sorry. I'm not insinuating anything. I just meant that slowly, while inside that dream, try to change the outcome.”

“But what would that do? Turn back time? Make it never happen?”

“No, of course not. But it will heal your spirit.” His gaze met hers. “It'll take time, but it can work.”

“Has this technique helped you?”

“It has.” Cale rubbed the back of his neck then rested an arm on a bent knee, releasing a frustrated sigh. “But some wounds are deep. They have to be peeled away layer by layer, much like an onion. I’m still working on mine, and I’ll admit that the remorse and the shame never quite disappear. But the memory doesn’t sting like a wasp anymore.

“How long do you want to keep suffering?” he continued, his voice sympathetic. “Months, years? You’re eighteen years old, Tess. You're a beautiful young woman with an injured leg, who's thinking of joining a convent so no man will never touch you again. If that's what you truly want, then so be it. But don't let that bastard take your entire life from you before you've had the chance to choose. And by bastard, I mean not just Saul, but Hank, too.”

“You speak about it like it's the easiest thing in the world.”

“Of course it's not easy. Life is a shithole sometimes.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry for the language, but I don't like seeing you recoil like a frightened animal.”

Shame flooded her from the trembling earlier.

Cale moved to her and gripped her shoulders. “You can overcome this. Not every man is out to hurt you.” He brought his hands to her face and cupped her cheeks.

She knew he would kiss her.

She wanted him to, but at the same time her body rebelled, so she closed her eyes.

“Go ahead,” she whispered.

She was surprised by the barest brush of his lips against hers. Slowly, he made more contact, kissing her gently, but with each pass he deepened the connection more. For Tess, it was achingly sweet, sweeter than she'd ever imagined. But her body shook, from head to toe, and her ragged breathing made it difficult for her to calm down, to enjoy her first, real kiss.

He settled in closer, kneeling before her. She kept her eyes shut as his thumb caressed her lower lip, as he nuzzled her cheek.

“Look at me, Tess.” Despite the demand, his voice was kind.

She opened her eyes. His face hovered close to hers, and a hint of a smile tugged at his lips. He only touched her face, nowhere else.

His blue eyes held desire, but he seemed in no hurry to move any faster.

Although he made a point to shave every few days, his newly-budding whiskers poked her. Despite his restraint, his mouth met hers with a growing hunger, stirring a longing that grew inside her abdomen. He tasted of coffee and the stew they’d just eaten, and she liked it.

His mouth retreated, but she moved forward and kissed him, not wanting the contact to stop. He responded, molding his lips over hers. Her hands grasped his wrists, wanting to touch him but hesitant to initiate more.

The kiss became more urgent, and when Tess opened her lips his tongue swept briefly inside, shocking her. She stilled.

He pulled back, but his face remained only inches from hers.

“You don't have to worry,” he said. “You can set the pace. You can always tell me to stop.”

She wanted to believe him. “Why would you do this when there are other women with far less difficulties?”

He grinned and leaned away. “None of ’em are you.”

She didn't know what to say.

Did he mean it? Did it matter if he didn't?

Perhaps she could learn to trust again, to decide if life in a convent was truly the best course of action.

Cale called to her like the magic in a story, giving hope in the words that weren't said. The taste of him lingered on her lips, and her body hummed with something other than panic.

“I have something that might help with the pain in your leg,” he said. She watched him retrieve two fist-sized stones from the fire by pushing them from the flames with a stick, then he placed them in an empty grain sack.

He came to her and crouched, and she wondered if he would kiss her again.

“I’m gonna put this around your knee,” he said. “Then you should try to get some sleep. The heat will help relax the muscles.”

She gave a brief nod when he paused for her permission. Lifting her skirt once again, he wrapped the sack and the hot stones around her damaged leg. She settled onto her pallet as he adjusted the bundle, then pulled the skirt back in place and settled a blanket atop her.

He retrieved a plain buckskin pouch from his belongings, opened it and coated a finger with the yellow substance inside.

“Open your mouth,” he instructed.

“What is that?”

Ha-dintin. It’s tule pollen, and very sacred to the Apache. It’s also thought to aid in healing.”

She let him slide his finger along her tongue to deposit the substance. The dense powder left a slightly sweet taste.

He leaned down and kissed her forehead. She grabbed his hand to keep him near. Impulsively, she lifted her head to bring her lips to his.

Despite the terror that pressed in on her, she wanted very much to show Cale that she welcomed his touch.

“I should’ve heated stones for you sooner,” he murmured against her mouth.

“Gracias,” she whispered.

“Sleep well, Tess. Let me guard the shadows for once.”

He slept near to her, and she was glad for his company.

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Evolution Of A Novel

By Kristy McCaffrey

I’m in the process of readying my fifth novel for release. While I would love to say that I know the ins-and-outs of this writing thing, I can’t. Each book I’ve penned presents its own challenges, and with each I was at a different stage of my composition skills.

This is the first book that I’ve written fast. I’ve always called myself a slow writer because I was. Toiling away with a small press meant no real deadlines, so I never gave myself any either. I wrote to my creative whims. If I came to a crossroads in a story and was unsure of the direction, I easily took a three month break to await inspiration. As you can imagine, it took me years to write my first four books.

An important aspect of this slowness concerned my writing confidence. While I can’t say I’m super-assured at this point, I did make a deliberate effort to improve my skills, to network with other writers who could help me, to read more, and to look up grammar issues to make sure I was getting it right. I also had the opportunity to clean up my first three books to re-release them. That was an eye-opener. The sloppiness in prose jumped off the pages. I think the simple fact that I could recognize this helped me feel more convinced that my skills have improved (all cringing aside).

I wrote the first draft of THE BLACKBIRD (Book Four in my Wings of the West historical western romance series) in one push during the month of November. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, a worldwide endeavor to finish a novel in 30 days. I’d never done anything like it before, and I’d certainly never written so quickly. I was curious to try.

To ‘win’ the challenge, writers had to type out 50,000 words. This isn’t quite the length of a novel since most are around 70-80,000 words, but the goal was to get a decent outline completed. I quickly realized that to hit my daily word count of 2000 (I knew I’d have to take off Thanksgiving at the end of the month so I wrote more than the recommended 1667 words each day), I couldn’t move slowly or dawdle too much on my characters, or descriptions, or the plot. Some writers are pantsers, living in a world where ‘what will come will come’, but I wasn’t one of those. I had to discard all my carefully laid plans of meticulous research. This was especially grueling as I built three chapters around a fort in the Arizona Territory I wasn’t even certain existed.

It was a wild November (we writers do love the crazy), but I did it. And, I pushed to get to the end of the book. I did this by glossing over certain scenes, then moving on. I skipped descriptions—the hero carried a gun and rode a horse but I didn’t know what kind. I wrote hero’s backstory (with the Apache Indians) by using markers like ‘B Indian talks to C Indian from the D tribe’. But don’t get me wrong, I did do preliminary research in October to make sure I was heading generally in the right direction. There were, however, many details I simply didn’t have time to fact-check if I wanted to make my word count each day.

This type of intuitive writing is both exhilarating and scary. It can lead to serious misdirection, and hence much rewriting, but it also lets the plot breathe through the writer unfettered. I found hidden gems in the story I had no idea were present, such as what really happened to the heroine when she was assaulted two years prior. The twist really surprised me. But in the rough edges of this first draft I also found I needed additional time to find the best way to tie it all up, to cut away the fluff. This is where my best-laid plans suffered. I was unable to meet my March 2015 release date. I pushed it to April, and began worrying about whether I’d get it done by then, too.

By mid-March, I made it through a fairly thorough edit of the first draft, cleaning up and tying bows and ribbons wherever I could, but as I got near the end I found a major glitch. I needed a better motivation between the bad guy and the heroine’s father, a rather ambiguous character who I hadn’t decided was good OR bad. My husband offered to help. Over dinner, I explained the story—and many subplots. It was impressive that he didn’t doze off. Finally, his advice was to offer a simple explanation for why something had happened in the backstory. And he was right. When in doubt, take the most obvious, easiest solution because that will make the most sense. The key, of course, is not to reveal all this to the reader, doling it out throughout the story.

So, back to another editing pass. I’m just about complete with it, then it’ll go to the editor. Despite a deadline looming, this is really the most fun part of penning a novel, at least for me. It’s when the very finest of details are added, and it always feels like packing moist, sweet earth into the cracks of the world I’ve created.

Hang tight, readers. I’ll get this published by the end of April. Cheers!

Arizona Territory 1877

Bounty hunter Cale Walker arrives in Tucson to search for J. Howard “Hank” Carlisle at the request of his daughter, Tess. Hank mentored Cale before a falling out divided them, and a mountain lion attack left Cale nearly dead. Rescued by a band of Nednai Apache, his wounds were considered a powerful omen and he was taught the ways of a di-yin, or a medicine man. To locate Hank, Cale must enter the Dragoon Mountains, straddling two worlds that no longer fit. But he has an even bigger problem—finding a way into the heart of a young woman determined to live life as a bystander.

For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men. Continuing the traditions of her Mexican heritage, she has honed her skills as a cuentista, a storyteller and a Keeper of the Old Ways. But with no contact from her father since the attack, she fears the worst. Tess knows that to reenter Hank Carlisle’s world is a dangerous endeavor, and her only hope is Cale Walker, a man unlike any she has ever known. Determined to make a journey that could lead straight into the path of her attacker, she hardens her resolve along with her heart. But Cale makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love.