Thursday, July 23, 2015

Christmas In July From Prairie Rose Publications

My publisher is celebrating the dog days of summer with a slew of fun releases.

Since summertime is for vacations and frolicking outside (unless you live in Phoenix as I do--most of our frolicking is done indoors under cover of air-conditioning), these short stories make the perfect quick reads. Grab them for only $.99 - $1.99.

Included in this collection is my historical western romance short Canyon Crossing.
(This was previously published in the anthology Lassoing A Groom.)

Now available in digital for 99 cents

In search of her brother, Annabel Cross enters Grand Canyon with a guide and a mule. When circumstances have her hanging from a cliff side, her rescue at the hands of U.S. Deputy Marshal Angus Docherty is fortuitous in more ways than one. He’s chasing the notorious Red Bandit, and it soon becomes clear that Annabel’s brother is mixed up with the criminal as well. While the marshal believes she may be in on a double-cross, she has a more pressing secret to hide. She can talk to deceased spirits, and she wonders whether to tell Angus about the old Apache ever near to him.

To celebrate, we're having a Facebook party!!
Date: July 27-28, 2015 (Mon-Tues)
Time: 5-10pm EST

A new author every 30 minutes ~ lots of prizes ~ winners chosen from among commenters ~ please join us, we'd love to see you!!

I'll be chatting on Monday, July 27 at 8:30pm EST.

My giveaways: $25 Amazon gift card and 2 digital copies of my western historical novel, INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS (total of 3 winners). To be eligible, stop by and leave
a comment during my chat.

More Info About Each Story

Kirsten Lynn: Race to Marry
Desperate to save her family ranch, Josie Allison signs up for a bride race then begs a cowboy to put his John Hancock down to catch her. Marrying a man you don’t know is crazy, but there’s something about this cowboy that makes Josie want to trust him with her land and maybe even her heart. And Josie knows marrying a man you do know can be twice as loco.

Cal Renner came to Sheridan, Wyoming, for one thing: ride the horse known as a man-killer and use the purse money to buy his own ranch. When a woman proposes to him five minutes after his feet touch Sheridan dirt, he’s sure a Wyoming asylum is missing a patient. But when she turns those summer green eyes his way, the promise of a family to go with that ranch is too hard to resist.

When secrets are revealed and enemies join the race, Cal and Josie will have to learn to trust each other, because the race to the altar has turned into the race for their hearts.

* * * *

Celia Yeary: Starr Bright
Conrad Taylor has mixed emotions about his ranching neighbor Starr Hidalgo. He can't stop caring about her, even though he is suspicious about her morals.

Starr Hidalgo depends on Conrad as good ranchers do, but she can't keep from admiring his good looks and strong personality. If only he would relax around her so they could become acquainted on a personal level.

As the tension between Starr and Conrad heats up, they learn more about each other, which can bring them together...or tear them apart permanently.

* * * *

Kathleen Rice Adams: The Last Three Miles
When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive.

Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly-finished track die. The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles.

* * * *

Kaye Spencer: A Gift of Christmas Hope
A shooting over a poker game, a family seeking revenge, a blizzard sweeping across the Texas Panhandle—it’s more than the world-weary gambler known as Lady Sapphire can handle without help. Determined to make it to her childhood home by Christmas Eve with her stagecoach full of treasure, she needs an escort, and there’s no time to be choosy.

Neal Behlen, a drifting gambler and occasional lady’s man—depending upon the size of the lady’s bank account—has his eye on the contents of Lady Sapphire’s mysterious steamer trunks. Taking on the job as her temporary bodyguard seems a lucrative venture and a pleasant diversion, since he plans to work in bedroom benefits along the way.

The price of their business arrangement is steep—their hearts—and both are reluctant to pay. What they need is a gift of Christmas hope, but will it arrive before it’s too late for love?

* * * *

Gail L. Jenner: Just in Time for Christmas
Della Wagner doesn’t need a husband. Widowed, she is committed to running her boarding house and helping out with some of the town’s students. But when one—eight-year-old Carson Baines—stumbles into her life, she finds herself facing trouble and danger, in the form of Carson’s drunken, abusive grandfather. And when James McMurray comes to her rescue, it isn’t long before she realizes that he is more than the blacksmith he portrays himself to be.

James McMurray didn’t come to Miner’s Creek looking for love. But after taking up residence at Della’s boarding house, he finds himself caught up with the widow’s campaign to rescue young Carson Baines, and in the process, discovers that the gift of love can transform a hard heart, as well.

* * * *

Lorrie Farrelly: Christmas Treasure
Ex-Union officer Will Blackburn has tried to put the loss of his Georgia home and the fierce alienation of his family behind him. His fresh start on a Nevada cattle ranch has given him renewed purpose, but making peace with the trauma of war is not so easily done.

When Will receives word that his beloved younger sister, Mattie, has died, he must deal not only with his past, but also with a starchy, stubborn young woman who has traveled more than two thousand miles to fulfill Mattie’s last wish: that her cherished CHRISTMAS TREASURE be hand-delivered to her brother.  But will that unexpected gift bring Will peace, or even greater pain?

* * * *

Sarah J. McNeal: Unexpected Blessings
When Juliet Wilding’s dreams are crushed, she cancels her wedding plans to Harry O’Connor. But Harry is not about to give up on the only woman he has ever loved. What neither of them expects is the event that will forever change both their lives.

* * * *

Sarah J. McNeal: When Love Comes Knocking
Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do?

* * * *

Tracy Garrett: A RIVER’S BEND DUO
Wanted: The Sheriff
Martha Bittner may be considered a spinster at twenty-seven, but she’s not planning to stay that way. For four years, she’s wanted the sheriff of River’s Bend, Missouri, to notice her as more than a friend and a really good cook. With the first annual spring dance only weeks away, Martha decides to announce her intentions—and declares the sheriff a wanted man.

Sheriff Matthew Tate always thought he was better off a bachelor. Growing up in Boston society, where marriage is a business transaction and wealth his greatest asset, he’s learned to distrust all women’s intentions. None of them even catch his eye anymore—until pretty Martha Bittner tells him exactly what she wants…and he wonders why he ever resisted capture.

No Less Than Forever
Doctor Franz Bittner is satisfied with his life as it is. He has a good practice in a place where he is respected, in spite of his German birth. He has good friends and enough income to provide him with a few comforts. A wife would only complicate things. Then a tiny blond stranger is pulled from the river and everything changes. With one smile she captures his attention—and steals his heart.

Rebekah Snow Redmann barely survived her abusive husband’s attack. Though she was given to him to pay her father’s debts, she’d rather die than go back. Then she ends up in the care of the handsome local doctor and he stitches up more than her wounds—he mends her soul. With him, she discovers everything that she believes she can never have...a love that will last forever.

* * * *

C. Marie Bowen: The Kid in Black
Disguised as The Kid in Black, Nell Grant tracks down the outlaw who killed her sweetheart and destroyed her future.  At night, her dreams remind her she's a still a woman. When she discovers the man who haunts her dreams is a marshal who could thwart her plans, she knows she must choose between vengeance and love.

U.S. Marshal Sam Kline is sent to apprehend an outlaw. Instead, he uncovers a passionate woman hidden beneath gunfighter's clothing. How can he protect her when her hunger for revenge threatens to destroy her?

* * * *

Tanya Hanson: SISTERS 
Her Hurry-Up Husband
Prim and proper socialite Elspeth Maroney flees from an indiscretion to the Wild West of Colorado as a mail order bride. She doesn’t plan to stay long, only a month. Rancher Hezekiah Steller needs a wife quick to get himself an heir, but what will the stagecoach deliver to his doorstep?

Their worlds collide deliciously until Ellie must confess her mistakes. Will Hez still want her tomorrow?

Her Thief of Hearts
To escape her domineering mother, Omaha socialite Judith Maroney heads to her sister's Colorado ranch on the morning train...a train that’s ambushed by the very cowboy who stole her heart on her last visit!

Taking on the disguise of his outlaw twin brother, Tremaine Heisler holds up a train to retrieve a family treasure—and finds his gun pointed at the woman he loves. Is there any way out for either of them?

* * * *

Jill McDonald:  Hearts and Red Ribbons
When a beautiful horse charges into their yard one spring evening, Mrs. Jones and her tomboy daughter, Marlee, can’t know how much their lives will change. Marlee goes in search of the owner of the big horse, only to be jumped by an injured man. He’s hurt badly, and Marlee must get him home to safety.

Ben Chambers is searching for something, but until he meets Marlee Jones, he doesn’t know what. Settling down is the last thing Ben wants, but he can’t seem to convince himself of that around Marlee. Valentine’s Day is upon them and there’s only one thing to do—tie Marlee’s heart to his own with a special red ribbon, and let the courtship begin!

* * * *

Sara Barnard:  The Bank Robber’s Lament
With his troubled past never far from his mind, the once-handsome Smith heads out to lose himself in the anonymity offered by the American West. When he arrives in Gabriel's Settlement, Texas he succumbs to the lifestyle of quick money and adventuresome living offered by a gang of wily bank robbers. It isn't until he crosses paths with Johanna Johannsen and her daughter Sadie that Smith discovers he isn't the only person in Texas with a looming past, and some people's devils are much closer to home than his own. When he learns of the Dalton Gang's plans to stick up the bank in Gabriel's Settlement, Smith must make a choice. But is he strong enough to face his past and be the man his own father couldn't be?

* * * *

Beverly Wells:  Hopes and Dreams
When Claire O’Gill agreed to be legal guardian for her niece should disaster strike, she never expected to fill that title. But now, she not only is she guardian, she must flee the clutches of the wealthy, cold-hearted grandparents who intend to snatch her niece away. Her determination to protect little Tori has them zigzagging and backtracking from Philadelphia to Wyoming to hide. 
Sheriff Zach Ballard isn’t in the market for a wife. Once burned by a money-hungry woman was more than enough. But he becomes enchanted by the adorable Tori, and her mama seems to want to avoid him. His suspicions as to why grow stronger, heightening his intrigue—and his heart yearns to trust again. 

All the while, Tori is busy talking to Mr. Cupid. She wants a daddy, and she knows exactly who can fill that spot for her new mama. Can two adults fight a little girl’s wish and the forces of Cupid?

* * * *

JACQUIE ROGERS: A Gift for Rhoda
A mail-order bride disaster!

Rhoda Johnson is stranded in a lonely cabin without a groom. The townsfolk say she’s better off without him, but her drunken groom sends a message that he’ll claim her as his Christmas bride. Gunman and ex-Confederate soldier Nate Harmon comes to Idaho to make peace with his abolitionist preacher father. When half-frozen Nate reaches the cabin on a snowy Christmas Eve, instead of his parents, he’s greeted by a pretty blonde with a shotgun who keeps calling him Mr. Snyder. Will she shoot him, or melt his heart?

* * * *

Cheryl Pierson:  These Rough Dreams
When Southern socialite Gabrielle Mason discovers she’s pregnant, she takes her future into her own hands. She has her family name to consider, and a husband is what she needs. She answers an ad for a mail-order bride in Indian Territory. But the man who proposes isn’t the man she ends up marrying.

Johnny Rainbolt is not a family man by any stretch of the imagination…but Fate is about to give him no choice. His late sister’s three children will be arriving on the next stage, and he has no idea what to do with them. When cultured Gabby Mason is left waiting for her prospective groom at the stage station, Johnny sees a way to solve everyone’s problems.

Some dreams get off to a rough start. A mail-order marriage is only the beginning. When one of the children is stolen, Johnny and Gabby are forced to depend on one another in an unimaginable circumstance that could turn tragic… or show them what might become of THESE ROUGH DREAMS.

* * * *

Livia J. Washburn:  Tinseltown
Carrie Fleming was on the run from a mysterious stalker. The young cowboy known only as Pecos found the last vestiges of the Old West in 1920s Hollywood. Fate brought them together at Christmas, when the only gifts that mattered to Pecos were winning Carrie's heart—and saving her life!

* * * *

Two wild and woolly Christmas stories by legendary Western author James Reasoner.

’Tis The Season For Justice
It's a life or death Christmas Eve for the man accused of murdering the son of the richest man in the territory. Former shotgun guard Judge Earl Stark knows how to stomp his own snakes, and he makes sure 'TIS THE SEASON FOR JUSTICE.

Presents for One and All
Texas Ranger Cobb is supposed to pick up a prisoner wanted in Parker County and take him back down to Weatherford.  Instead he finds himself battling a gang of outlaws and tangling with an old coot driving a wagon full of Christmas gifts, and it's up to him to make sure there are PRESENTS FOR ONE AND ALL.

* * * *

Two action packed holiday Western stories by award winning author Livia J. Washburn.

Blue Norther
Hired gun Lucas Hallam has been outnumbered plenty of times, but when he comes upon a necktie party for a young boy accused of cattle rustling, he has to step into danger once more—even with the odds stacked against him. No one should hang on Christmas Eve.

When the nearby cattle stampede, it looks like things can’t get any worse. But the weather is turning deadly, and if they don’t get the cattle to shelter—as well as themselves—everything will be lost. Can Hallam protect them from the coming BLUE NORTHER? 

A Creature Was Stirring
Mistaken for a “skookum”, Buffalo Newcomb is shot by a young boy, Tom Villard, as he stops by a creek to fish. When he comes to in a small cabin, Buffalo is grateful to realize that the boy’s mother, Ella, has removed the bullet and he has a safe place to recover.

It’s Christmas Eve, and A CREATURE WAS STIRRING—Buffalo can only hope he’s strong enough to keep it from destroying the woman who has shown him only kindness.

* * * *

Kathleen Rice Adams: THE DUMONT BRAND 
On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until Amon Collier finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother Ben's wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy 
To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace 
After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

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.