Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BEHIND THE BOOK: Redeeming Daisy

I was thrilled in December 2009 to be considered a “runner up” in the Hearts Crossing contest, and even more so when the acquiring editor said she’d like a story about the second brother, Pike, a large animal veterinarian, and bad-girl Daisy. (both have small roles in the first book.)  To be honest, I have no real knowledge of large animal vets, so I stuck with what I did know: losing a black Labrador to inoperable cancer. Yup. Eight months after my own hero’s battle...and thus, Redeeming Daisy, the second book in the series, was born.

Pike nodded into Daisy’s dark imploring gaze as she knelt on the floor to grapple the black Labrador close. Her childish gesture and panicked eyes stoked emotions he’d just buried.

While he waited for her to get to her feet, Pike grabbed hold of every professional mannerism he could. Somewhat stiffly Mrs. Densmore reached out to comfort her daughter, but Daisy shoved away the embrace.

Pike took a deep breath. Well, he had offered to tell Daisy himself. “Daisy, between his kidneys, Elway’s got an inoperable malignant tumor. It’s called hemangiosarcoma.”

Wild-eyed, she grabbed Pike’s hand, and the touch scorched him. “What?”

He repeated the unhappy news.

“Inoperable? Why can’t you operate?”

The question stunned him. Did she really think he had some other choice? “It’s positioned too dangerously between the kidneys. And worse.” He sighed. “Worse, it’s metastasized. Spread. Trust me on this.
She bristled. “You think he’s going to die?”

Pike knew the odds and told Daisy what he hadn’t been able to tell her mother.

“I’m sorry. Yes.”

Her squeal of pain sliced into his brain like an earache. And he understood. The last innocent, uncomplicated part of her life would be gone too soon. He didn’t think he wanted it, but when she flung herself toward him, he gathered her in his arms, close enough to feel her pounding heart and smell her garden of long black hair.

Elway. Her Elway. The only living creature left who loved her unconditionally. Who never pointed fingers.

Who never yammered What have you done now?

Almost past control, Daisy sobbed against Pike Martin’s strong sculpted shoulders, drinking in his warm, manly aura. Ever the rancher, he wore the outdoors like a second skin even here in the sterile confines of the animal hospital, clad in white lab coat over Wranglers. It rang in her ears again, his soft, nonjudgmental voice last week when he helped her escape from herself.

That was something. Something he hadn’t had to do. But what did he know? He didn’t know Elway was all she had left.

No way could she bear losing this precious creature. She’d already lost her self-respect, her job, her faith. Her half-baked marriage. Oh, she’d married for love, but in such haste she’d regretted it every day since. But divorce was cruel, too. And everybody in Mountain Cove knew everything because she had no place else to go.

She wasn’t about to lose her best friend.

Before her mom could nag her yet again, Daisy pushed herself from Pike’s embrace. She’d liked it, but she didn’t want to, didn’t need it, didn’t need him or any man. Not after Tony. All she needed now was an experienced vet.

Still, part of her wanted to stay in Pike’s arms, and s
he didn’t like her reaction at all. It was a dangerous place to be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

BEHIND THE BOOK: Hearts Crossing Ranch

Well, I gotta say, my husband’s cancer battle took me down a long, winding road into inspirational romance. Not long after he got well, I found out about the "Hearts Crossing" contest at a small publishing start-up. There were specifics you had to have in your entry.

A heroine, an only child, who was a landscape architect. A hero who taught American literature and had seven siblings. The standard stuff for inspy had to apply...somebody losing/finding faith, becoming Christian etc.

Since my faith had been stretched pretty thin by my helplessness as a cancer-caregiver, I thought I could write a story about faith challenges. And well, Hearts Crossing was absolutely the Best Name for a ranch. Hubs and I had just signed up to go on a city-slicker wagon train trip so...

...Heroine Christy, a California landscape architect, takes a similar wild-west adventure, where she meets Colorado wagon master Kenn, a high school teacher during the academic year. Both need God...Christy to survive the morass of her father’s tragic death. Kenn, overcoming guilt at leading his younger brother Bragg astray...

(The novella got accepted and so did stories about Kenn’s siblings, all working and running the Hearts Crossing Ranch.)

    The boat slid through the silver lake, and Christy felt calm at last. The coffee warmed her through and through, but nothing like the heat of Kenn’s presence across from her. His muscles moved again like magic and music, a sight she’d never tire of whether she stayed on at Hearts Crossing Ranch  for Cowboy College after the wagon train, or returned home.
     Both possibilities confused her.
     “Have you thought about staying on?” Kenn asked casually as if reading her thoughts, “Cowboy College?”
     She fought for the correct reply, not wanting to sound eager. Or reluctant. Both emotions scrambled together in her heart. “I can’t deny I’m intrigued. But there’s my job. And my mom.”
     “Do you think she’s worried about you? Our no-cell phone rule, I mean.”
     “Sure.” Christy shrugged, not liking the thought. Not liking the guilt she felt as not having really thought about Mom for a while. “She worries about everything. And it confuses me so much. She’s supposed to be this strong Christian woman, yet she can’t seem to trust God’s will at all.”
     Kenn sighed, long and loud before he replied. “I think I’ve learned faith isn’t some pinnacle you reach where you get to stay forever,” he said finally. “There’s hills and valleys all over the place.”
     He gave her a quick, heart-stopping glance before he looked away, as if ready to bare his soul. For a flash, she wondered if he was about to reveal to her the load Kelley had hinted at.
     Christy’s voice was soft. “You think you ever reach the pinnacle again? Once you land in a valley?” For some reason, today had her feeling the valley of the shadows might be a thing of the past. Or at least she was on her way upward. It wasn’t mere coincidence or habit, was it, which had her beseech God at the moment she needed Him?
     “I don’t know.” Kenn’s forlorn voice touched her heart as both their gazes traveled the shoreline to land on Bragg, busy showing Mitchell how to cast a fly rod. Maybe God had led her here to Hearts Crossing to find her own peace and to help Kennedy Martin regain his faith.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BEHIND THE BOOK...Midnight Bride

The blog’s taking a new direction. Behind the Book.
Each Tuesday, I’ll tell you a bit about one of my books. Then on January 5, 2016, I’ll be holding a big giveaway, following the sweepstakesrules I share with my group blog, Petticoats and Pistols. I hope by then you’ll be a regular visitor.

We didn’t know what would kill my husband first--the testicular cancer or the chemo. During that bleak winter of 2008, I had to cowgirl-up fast and real.

The dreadful, deathly diagnosis happened the same day as Release Day for my second western romance, Midnight Bride.

After a very long, very dispiriting sophomore slump.

The term means a lengthy period between a first book and the second and authors hate it. Yet feeling joy was the last on my list of emotions, knowing how much suffering was ahead for the one I love.

But God heard our pleas, After a three-month grueling battle, my personal hero went into remission. And five years later, we got to start using the “cured word”.

Interestingly, Midnight Bride was re-released right then again, under a new cover, by my new publisher, The Wild Rose Press.
We had gone full circle.

(Nonetheless, the first cover is my favorite of all my covers Ever. Carrie and Jed turned out just like they looked inside my head.)

I hope you enjoy the excerpt about two strangers who must marry by midnight or lose a ranch. Sigh.
     He stood in the doorway, hatless just like he’d been in the mercantile. And just as breathtaking. In one hand he held a bunch of iceberg roses tied with a lavender bow.
     From the other hand hung a hatbox from Gosling’s Mercantile. The lilac shawl Carrie had admired was draped over his forearm.
     Without a word, he walked over to her and laid the shawl gently across her shoulders. She had stopped breathing. His eyes locked with hers, and while she couldn’t read the message in his gaze, she found she couldn’t turn her own away. When he held the flowers to her determinedly, she had no choice but to take them.
     “Take off that mourning bonnet,” he told her in such a way that it didn’t seem like an order. While she did so, he opened the hatbox.
     Within a half minute, the beautiful purple chapeau she had fingered lovingly not fifteen minutes ago rested on her head. He tied the bow jauntily under her chin, then all but snapped his heels together as he stood in front of her. 
     “I’m Jed Jones,” he announced. “Your bridegroom.” 
     Carrie’s lips opened but no words came out. Not knowing what to say or what else to do, she untied the bonnet’s bow.  He never stopped looking at her. From the corner of her eye, she could see the older men in half-standing postures like they hoped to escape any second. However, she knew them well, knew they wouldn’t leave her all alone.
     Suddenly she found her voice, willing it not to tremble.      
     “My bridegroom? I beg your pardon. What on earth are you saying?” She turned toward the judge. “Is this about that ‘notorious’ authentic document?
     Judge Jacobson was nodding, somewhat defeated, while the sheriff pulled at his scrawny beard.
     When neither spoke, her supposed bridegroom took up the call.
     “It’s true, Miss Zacaria Smith. If you don’t marry me by midnight tonight, the Lazy J-Z will be deeded to the Mother of Mercy Orphanage outside San Antone.”
     Then he took her hand, placing his lips against the inside of her wrist.