Once a week, every Tuesday, an excerpt from one of my books, chosen for no special reason.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bannister's Way



When writing, secondary characters sometimes interest the author enough to find themselves in their own book. This happened to me when I wrote Desert Inferno. David Bannister was an agent sent to Arizona to find evidence and arrest a dangerous man. He was slick, handsome, and dangerous. He and the hero of Inferno, Jake Donovan, became friends. I began to wonder about David's background. When I figured it out, Bannister's Way was on its way. 
The heroine was a sculptress, teacher, and David's ex-wife. To catch a murderer, David was going undercover but didn't have in mind what his partner set up for him.
Having been in a lot of art classes, some with nude models, having painted and sculpted nudes, Raven was a fun heroine for me


 

David only half listened as he heard her tell them about the value there was to be had from taking seriously a study of fine art, how throughout the ages great artists have seen the study of the body--the musculature, the bone structure, in short the anatomy--was important to make their work come alive. They must take seriously the study of the nude--
Whoa! What had she just said? Nude! Who said anything about... nude? And then he knew and wished nothing so much as that Vance was nearby where he could get his hands around his throat. A good dodge, a natural way in, his friend had said. Friend, hah! He'd kill him!
He barely heard the rest of Raven's instructions. It was impossible. No way under this earth or above it could he take off his clothes in front of all these people! He looked at the students, at their interested gazes in a new way. They must know he was the model, the guinea pig, the sacrificial lamb, the... No!  He would not strip. It was out of the question. No way could he do it.
Raven's voice broke through his thoughts. "At one time, I wouldn't have had to say what I am going to next, but times have changed and so have people. There will be no commenting about the model, nor any jokes." One of the girls giggled in what to David seemed a nasty way. He stared at her, wondering how such an innocent looking young woman could have such a perverted giggle. He looked back at Raven, who was looking over the students. "You will at no time treat the model with less than respect. You will not touch him. This is a serious class. If you behave as though your time here is a joke or an opportunity for voyeurism, you will be kicked out of the class. If it happens soon enough, you might be able to just drop it. If it’s too late, you will get a failing grade.”
He felt angry at her for the position in which he found himself, then he remembered her uncertainty, the many opportunities she had extended, trying to give him a graceful way out of it. Except he hadn't known what it was. He remembered her question--are you sure you know what you're doing? His own confident answer--of course.
  He stared down at his scarred boot and thought again of Vance--the man who called himself friend, who had to be somewhere snickering, laughing at the ultimate stunt. This was the worst of the tricks to which Rich had ever subjected him. David's breathing wasn't coming easily as he considered how it would feel to be nude in a room where everyone else was clothed, of being stared at--intimately.
 It is for art, he reminded himself. Everyone knew about the old masters, their works. Michelangelo’s David. Rodin’s Age of Bronze. He'd seen nude paintings on museum walls but never thought about the flesh and blood models who had posed for those works. The thought of being one of those models had never entered his head.
He’d almost turned down the assignment just on it being as a model--a fully clothed model. Only his interest, in what had appeared to be an unsolvable case and the knowledge that his ex-wife taught the class, had persuaded him. Now what was he going to do?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A piece of 'From Here to There'

In From Here to There, a contemporary western set in Montana, a question is asked. In today's world, what makes it The West? What is it that western communities hope to protect for themselves from the encroaching world? The book asks what makes a hero as well.


digital painting from a photo I took in Eastern Oregon of a cattle drive-- 
yes, they still have them
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 "I should apologize to you, Phil," Nancy said as soon as everyone was seated again. "It must have sounded like an accusation the way I put my question. I didn't mean it that way." She smiled a gamine grin that Phillip thought would have made it nearly impossible for anyone to take offense at what she'd said.
 "We are defensive though," Emile said, leaning forward, his voice intense. "Outsiders come here, buy up the land, move into the valleys and hills, and they don't understand our ways, share our values. They don’t understand the problems we face with say wolf or grizzly predations. They want us gone is the honest truth and leave this place for vacation homes and the wolves and grizzlies.”
“I have read about the conflicts,” Phillip agreed, “and see how it seems confrontive.”
“It causes a lot of trouble when newcomers or worse outsiders expect to change everything to meet their goals-- often nothing to do with what this place has been. If they didn’t like how this was, why’d they bother to come?"
“Everybody came sometime,” Phillip argued.
“Outsiders cause us a lot of grief.”
"Outsiders. That's a good word for the way you people treat anybody who wasn't born on your land."
 "Oh my, I'm sorry I ever brought any of this up," Nancy said.
 Phillip made his own tone conciliatory. "I'll concede the evils of the big cities with high taxes, crime, pollution, and overcrowding, but how about if we keep this discussion to the thing I really don't understand. What is the philosophy that you people see as being Western, that separates a Westerner from what you would call an outsider?" He had no desire to get into an argument with Emile. On the other hand, fighting with Wes might have a certain appeal. His eyes narrowed as he looked toward Wes, who had settled next to Helene on the gingham covered sofa. What were that guy's intentions?
 Emile subsided back, as Nancy, who had moved to sit on the arm of his chair, began soothingly kneading his shoulder muscle.
 There was a silence "A lot of the ways around here have changed, even since I was a kid," Amos said finally. "There was a time when a man was judged by what he did not just what he owned. There wasn't so much concern with how much money you had, but more how you did your work, what your word was worth. You know, even now with some of the old timers, a handshake is as good or better than a paper contract would be somewhere else. In fact, with a lot of men, you never get a signed contract. A man's word, that's everything. Know what I mean?"
 "Maybe. I deal with people a lot on the look in their eye," Phillip said thoughtfully. "It doesn't always work out though when you don't have the expectations written down. People remember their promises differently."
 Amos grinned. "Well, that's true most everywhere, I expect, but if a man's worked the winter at your side, you've watched his kids grow up, seen how he keeps his stock, how he maintains his fences, you get a feeling for him and the kind of fella he is. A man who can do does. A man who can't brags.”
“I’ve noticed that last one too.” Phillip smiled but didn’t look at Wes as he had been tempted.
 "We do come out here from other places, heck, if we count our families, all of us came from someplace else, but there’s always been those who weren’t born here. They come in and that’s where the grain gets separated from the chaff.
“Some overgraze their land, don’t treat their cattle right, and then go belly up. Gone and good riddance. Now we got those what don’t come to make money or ranch. It’s an investment to them. The place goes out of production. They don’t care about the schools, the socials, none of it.”
“And that relates to being a cowboy?” Phillip asked.
“We got a saying out here--the bigger the hat, the littler the outfit.” Amos chuckled.
“I think though,” Nancy said, “you're not so much asking what makes the West what it is, but more what is we out here are trying so hard to hold onto and that we feel is threatened by newcomers."
 Phillip nodded. "It is something of what I have wondered."
"Some of it's a feeling of self-sufficiency in the community,” Emile answered. “It’s a caring for each other. A man takes care of himself but also helps out those around him. There’s knowing you can leave your door unlocked and if your neighbor comes by the only thing he'll be going into your house for is to leave you a pie or loaf of bread his wife baked."
 "It sounds Edenic," Phillip said, remembering the neighborhoods he'd grown up in. If you left your door unlocked there, you'd find the place trashed and emptied out when you got home. If you were lucky, the burglar was gone and was not waiting to bash your head in.
 "I suppose it is, and a lot of it's already gone,” Emile agreed. “When I was a kid, everybody used to get together at the county grange on Saturday nights for potlucks and at each other's barns for dances. Us kids would watch them dance all night, and the worst thing that would happen might be a couple of hotheads fighting over some pretty little thing down behind the barn. Then when they worked it out, they’d be shaking each other’s hand.”
Amos chuckled. “Yep, if a man's barn or house burned, the whole valley'd show up to put up a new one. You saw a fellow driving his rig down the road, and you not only knew who he was but who his people had been. Nowadays, I don't hardly know half the people three miles from my road in here, let alone all the way into town."
 "You can't blame that totally on city people who moved in though," Phillip said. "Change happens. Nobody can hold onto anything forever."
 "We can damn well try," Emile retorted argumentatively.
 Amos shook his head. "No, he's right. We can't hold onto what was, and we probably do glamorize the old West too much, make more out of it than it was, like it really was John Wayne running things back then."
He stopped for a moment and then, as though thinking aloud, mused, "It's a funny thing about the Western way of thinking. On the one hand, it's a man helping another man by choice, but on the other hand, it's a man being independent, doing for himself. I think that's what we don't want to lose the most... independence."
 "You don't think people from the city can be independent?" Phillip asked, knowing what the answer would be.
 "City folks want somebody else to do everything for them," Wes said. "Get the government into every part of life. Raise taxes, ask for services. They want to butt into everybody else's business and tell them how to run it. You get a man from the city out here and the first thing you know he wants sidewalks, street lights and expects you to help pay for them."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Desert Inferno excerpt


The first book, that I released for a Kindle in December 2011, was this one. A contemporary, western romance about the border in Arizona, descendants of the O'Brian family (in my Arizona historicals) Desert Inferno has a rather non-traditional hero. Oh, this border patrolman has the expected 'hot' body, but he is considered ugly by himself and most who come across him-- with the exception of the artist he meets due to a dead body. 

Before long, Jake Donovan finds he has a woman who would like to know him a LOT better and an old enemy who would like to kill him. This snippet also introduces a guy, operating at the time as a federal agent, who I then decided deserved his own book-- David Bannister. He gets that and a lot he wasn't expecting in Bannister's Way

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    By the time Bannister had finished going through the files and Jake had written his stack of reports, they were both bleary eyed. Jake looked at his wristwatch and saw they'd worked past six. "Time to knock off," he said, rubbing the back of his neck.

    "You got plans?" Bannister asked, as he loosened his tie.
    "Burger, beer and bed in that order."
    "Mind if I tag along?"
    "For how much of it?" Jake asked suspiciously.
    Bannister smiled. "Just food, Jake."
    Jake stood up and stretched, trying to work the kinks out of his back. “If questions are involved, you’re out the door.” He grabbed his Stetson, tipping the brim low over his eyes.
    "No problem." Bannister grinned, not intimidated by Jake's scowl.
    Jake opened the door to his office, but before he could do more than gape,     Rachel walked through. "Hi,” she said.
   
"You can see that we're leaving," Jake said.
    Rachel looked up at him. "I came back to…” She stopped seeing Bannister for the first time. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were busy."
    “Never too busy for a lovely lady,” Bannister said with an appreciative grin.
    “Well, I…”  She smiled up at Jake. “I felt bad about the way we had left it. What I said, but I see now is not a good time to talk to you.”
    "Introduce us, Jake,” Bannister said, smiling smoothly.
    Her kind of guy, Jake thought as he made the introductions, his mind more on the fact that Rachel was wearing a sleeveless white dress, which draped loosely over soft curves, suggesting more than it showed but implying plenty. Her thick black hair was loose down her back, falling in luxuriant waves. Jake wasn't surprised to see the admiration in Bannister's eyes.
    "Glad to meet you," Bannister said, smoothly moving to cut between Rachel and Jake as he took her hand.
    She smiled looking up at Jake, the expression in her eyes impossible to read. "I really am sorry I intruded."
    "We were on our way to dinner," Bannister put in before Jake could say anything, "and could ask for nothing more than to have a charming, beautiful companion to eat with. It'll make the evening."  He smiled broadly, his eyes skimming over Rachel's curves with what could only be described as masculine appreciation.
    Jake stood back a little, wishing for another cigarette.  Rachel looked up at him, "Is that all right?"
    "Sure," he said with little enthusiasm and more than a hint of irony. "Why not?" Glumly, he resigned himself to spending a night with Barbie and Ken as they began a flirtation.
    Bannister took Rachel's arm as they exited the office.  "Where's a good restaurant, Jake?" he asked, looking back as Jake closed the door behind them.
    "I usually eat at the golden arches," Jake quipped.
    "I think we can do better than that." Bannister wrinkled his nose.
Rachel stopped and waited until Jake came up to them. "A hamburger sounds good to me."
    Bannister looked from one to the other. "You're kidding, right? How about Thai food? Not that we are likely to find any. Or..." He shrugged. "You're not kidding. All right, I'm easy. Whatever the lady wants.
    Jake studied him through narrowed eyes. He doubted there was anything about the agent that was easy.
 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Echoes from the Past


For anyone interested in getting the eBook Echoes from the Past, it will still be $2.99 on its release day, 8/5/15. Then, August 6th it goes to $3.99. (This book has some strong language and mild profanity. It has spice with a heat level of ♥♥♥♥.)

The fifth Arizona historical, set in 1901, is the first romance for the Taggert brothers. The story is about prehistoric cultures, archaeology, questions of reincarnation, and brings back some characters from the previous four Arizona historicals-- most especially Sam and Abby Ryker (from Arizona Sunset).

In this snippet, the hero and heroine, Holly and Vince are coming to an understanding-- of sorts.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     Outside, the air was fresh and clear, the stars highly visible overhead.
     “What did you want to say that others couldn’t hear?” she asked when he stopped her at the corrals and turned to face her.
     “They could have. I thought you might prefer they not.”
     “Why?”
     “For this.” He reached out and pulled her to him. She never even thought of resisting as he put his arms around her and bent to claim her lips. The kiss was like none she’d known as she felt herself melt into his body in a way that went beyond the physical. Warmth surged through her. She wanted the kiss to last forever. What was this?
     “You weren’t supposed to do that,” she said with a smile, when he finally released her and stepped back.
     “On that we agree.” His smile was self-mocking. The half moon was rising. The light of it gave his face an eerie glow, almost otherworldly.
     “We agreed before that you would not go with me to the Cibecue.”
     “It hadn’t gotten to that point. Connie wanted me to do it, but you and I had never gotten specific regarding it.”
     “It would be a bad idea.”
     He smiled again. “Probably but I’m going to do it.”
     “You know you shouldn’t, Vince.” It was the first time she had used his name. It rolled off her lips as though she had used it hundreds of times.
     “I know that too, but I am going. There is one condition.”
     “You are so dictatorial.”
     He laughed. “Sometimes. This though is where you will agree, or I will do everything I can to stop your going at all. And I have more influence in that than you might imagine.”
     “I am listening.”
     “You are boss of the digging. I am boss of security.”
     “What does that mean?”
     “It means where we camp, traveling to and from it, the guns, the things you want to do that I say are not safe. You listen to me.”
     “Of course, I’d listen.” She didn’t like even saying that.
     “More than listen. Obey.”
     Never in her life had she imagined hearing a man say that word and her not becoming infuriated. Instead, she felt heated in a different way. “I don’t believe you’d shut down this whole venture for that.”
     “Believe it. This is going to be more dangerous than you can imagine right now. If you can’t listen to commonsense, it would be even worse.”
     “I do understand its danger.” She wasn’t willing to tell him about the dreams.
    “Then you understand it’s not a world you know anything about. I have been there, can help you, but I won’t do it if you are going to risk your life or others out of stubbornness.”
     “You make me so mad.” She felt like yelling at him.
     “I know.”
     “All right, but tell me this-- why did you kiss me?”
     “It was what I wanted to do all night.”
     “And you always do what you want?”
     He shook his head. “No, not always. A kiss though isn’t much to give a man, who you might be asking to die for you.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Arizona Sunset excerpt

Arizona Sunset, Book 1 of the Arizona Historicals, is set in 1883, when an outlaw and a spinster meet in an unexpected way. They begin with a mutual attraction but wanting very different things from life. She is looking for a brief adventure and an escape from a life of rigid conventions. He sees in her a possible chance for a respectable life such as he's only seen from the outside looking in.

Expectations have a cost, but neither grasp that at the start. This snippet is where they are coming up against some of those differences, which can be too much -- even with love as the binder.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “You really went to the Reimers?”
    “Yes, I did.”
    “Why?”
    “I told you I wanted to meet our neighbors. I felt like it’d be a good thing to do for us. Having friends is a good thing, Sam.”
    “I don’t need friends.”
    “It’s not a matter of need. It’s just nice to know your neighbors.”
    “God, you are green, Abby. I keep thinking I have seen it all with you, and you surprise me again.”
    She knew that was no compliment, and it irritated her to have him keep saying how she was so unknowing of the ways of the world. True, she had not lived out on her own as he had, but she knew something about people “People need people, Sam. It’s about community. You then have someone you can count on.”
    “You count on anyone but yourself, and you’ll be dead.”
    “So you keep people from getting too close?”
    “It works best.”
    “And where does that leave me?”
    His smile was reluctant. “I’m trying to figure that out.”
    There was no answer to that. She managed a smile of her own. “I’m hungry. How about you?” She opened the cupboard and looked around for what might be possible.
    “Not much.”
    She gave a little laugh. “Well, I am starved.” She found some biscuits and handed Sam one. “I should have left Margaret’s earlier. Time got away from me.”
    “You liked her?”
    “Yes, I did. She’s a plain spoken woman. I told her we’d have them to dinner some evening.”
    He gave her a look. “Abby, you’re not using your head. You and I are not the usual couple here. I am not the usual ranch owner in these parts.”
    “Well, I certainly know how it’s been, Sam but...”
    “If we go around other people, they’re going to figure something is wrong at the Circle R. From there it won’t take long to bring a hanging rope.”
    She wasn’t ready to let this go even though she felt a surge of fear at the idea of Sam at the end of a rope. “Haven’t you thought of being a real rancher someday, Sam?” She saw by the expression on his face that this was something he wasn’t open to discussing. “Things change. For instance, you could learn to read if you wanted.”
    “I’ve tried. I’m illiterate."
    "You're not or you wouldn't even know a word like that."
    "I took care to learn that one. It had special meaning to me."
    “You can learn to read, Sam. I know I can teach you. You couldn’t read that note, but sometime it could be something that matters even more.”
     He appeared equal parts embarrassed and exasperated. "Don’t you think I’ve tried. I've looked at books, tried to figure them out. I can't."
     "Because everybody needs somebody to help them, to read to them, to show them words. You were too proud to ask for that help, weren't you? The question now is are you still?"
     "What do you mean?" He didn't like the idea of her teaching him to read. It seemed to put him even further beneath her than he already knew he was. He wanted to be the one to teach her things, not the other way around. As he watched her stubborn expression, he thought of all the things he wanted to show her. But tonight was not the night. He was as tired as she was.
     "I can teach you to read. Are you too proud to let me?" she asked nailing it on the head.
     "It's not pride."
     "Isn't it?"
     He stared at her, knowing she was right. It was pride. He swallowed a chunk of it. “I could try, I guess."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This couple show up as secondary characters in Book 5's Echoes from the Past.

 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

too busy and still too dry here in my part of the PNW

This has been a particularly busy time for me in the writing area. Echoes from the Past is out as a prerelease-- on sale for $2.99 until it is delivered August 5th (that's when it is paid also). 

The edit for the third Oregon historical seemed to take forever. I thought I had it in perfect condition-- not so much. It goes to its beta readers next week and then will be published September 21st. 

In the midst of that, I have been doing some cover work. One advantage of being an indie writer is I have total control over my covers. That means if they don't quite hit the mark, I can only blame myself. It also though means when I want to change one, I can do it. 

I wrote about one of those changes in my Rain Trueax author page at Facebook. This is a place anyone can access without being a member or even joining Facebook. If cover art and the philosophy behind it interests you, check the link out: 



If you are interested in reading about my writing process, etc., it's also a good place to bookmark and visit now and again as I write tidbits there frequently, most on the writing.

The new cover perfectly suits Evening Star, a book I wrote years back but only now have a visual image for what that hero looked like :). A lot of my heroes are that way. When I finally find the right face and expression, I am happy :).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sky Daughter Excerpt

Snippet from Sky Daughter, a contemporary paranormal with a new cover that finally has the right image for the hero on its cover. He wasn't easy to come by as the hero, Reuben, has a Jewish mother and Puerto Rican father. He also is supposed to be so handsome that the ongoing joke is he looks like a model for a magazine ad. I have the right guy with Vikkas Bhardwaj:




          “A living head, huh?”
          “Cutting off enemy heads and displaying them--which the warriors did after and before battles--sounds ruthless, but they didn’t do it to be cruel. They thought the head had power.”
          “I’m going to assume your grandmother didn’t take her Celtic lore to that extreme,” Reuben said with a wary smile.
          “She wasn’t going to battle. If she had, who knows. Celtic women can be fierce warriors.”
          “I do know that,” he said. “Fierce warriors and maybe…” He bent and kissed her, his lips as firm and tender as she had remembered. His tongue traced her lips, sending a quiver through her that seemed to radiate throughout her body. She reached up, wanting more. She felt a growing passion that demanded she acknowledge that connection between them.
          The kiss again seemed to pull her into him, to hold her there by something more than his arms. His hands stroked down her back. She realized how little she and he wore and where all this would lead in another moment, and she pulled back.
          Breathing heavily, she rose from the sofa and walked a safe distance away before she looked back at him. He was sitting where she’d left him, his hands at his side, and a bemused expression on his face. “You are like a flame,” he said after a moment. “Hot, burning, then gone, nothing left but the coals.”
          She managed a smile. “We needed a time out.” She recognized the power in him. It wasn’t just in the sinewy, muscular body; it was within the soul of him, something that called out to her, that revealed in her own self a place she had no desire to know better.It was as though too many things were coming at once, secrets her grandmother had found a way to reach out from the grave to leave for her. Then this man who seemed to be setting her soul and body on fire. Yes, she had a Celtic heritage, but she had carefully kept that part of herself controlled.  She had to keep it controlled
          We did?” he asked quietly.
          “It’s just not right for us,” she said finally.
Going against everything he’d just told himself only hours before, he asked,  “What’s the harm in doing whatever comes naturally? Men and women do that all the time.”
          “I don’t.”
          He didn’t know why he was going to stir up an argument with her but he did it anyway. “Holding out for the wedding ring?”
          “You are taking a lot for granted,” she retorted.
          “I am?”
          “That I’d want to wear any man’s ring.” He just smiled at her.“Good night, she snapped, sharply turning on her heels and heading out of the room. She couldn’t resist one more rejoinder. “Next time you have a nightmare, you can suffer with it.”