Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Thursday, October 31, 2013

So what really happened-- give or take a lie or two

There is historical truth. Something really did happen a certain way. The question is how do we find it when we are not living in the era in which the event happened (often even when we are)? This is especially true of something with a lot of emotional energy attached.

Well, we can rely on eyewitness accounts which were written down not long after the event occurred. The problem with that is that people don't always see the same things nor do they always tell the truth. Excitement, mythology, hearing the stories of others, all if it can impact what comes out with diverse versions. When you hear someone else say what they saw pretty soon it can seem like you saw it.

Where it comes to George Armstrong Custer, I've looked at a wide variety of sources to try and discern what I think happened at The Little Bighorn as well as what led up to it. My original motive to understand the cavalry of that time morphed into trying to understand this complicated man and the time in which he was operating.

Pretty soon I went to documentaries. The one below at 45 minutes explains a logical approach to Custer's motives that day and how he ended on what is called Last Stand Hill. It uses commentary, reenactments and maps that trace the actions and routes of the various participants.

Didn't like that or consider it to be your idea of what you were told happened? Not politically correct for your time? Okay, give archaeologists a try as they went in with modern equipment and tools to find what was left over a hundred years later regarding where soldiers died, how the event went down (not that archaeology can determine timing). They also used the stories the Indians told because they were the only ones who survived Last Stand Hill which the archaeologists in this documentary (also 45 minutes) decided was misnamed.

After all the books I've read on this, having been to The Little Bighorn the first time when it was called Custer Battlefield NM (politically correctedness impacts history if you didn't already know that), I think the archaeologists made one big goof in their analysis, but they had some very interesting results. Just remember, archaeology can dig up inanimate objects (including human bones) it will always be a human assessing the story behind them.

My disagreement with them comes from their ignoring something that intervened between the battle and their collecting specimen. Because they found very few cartridges from the soldiers in the area Custer and those closest to him fell, they decided they hadn't fired many shots up there.

They did know more or less who fired the bullets as the Indians, who were very well armed thanks to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (for hunting buffalo dontchaknow), with repeating rifles-- Henrys as well as assorted other weapons. Henrys are not as accurate at a far distance but close up they are deadly for how fast they can be shot. The cavalrymen were shooting Springfield carbines where you had to load each bullet. Deadly at a distance (for those who had time to practice and most agree these green troopers had not) but way disadvantaged close up.

Another point they ignored -- Custer, his brothers and probably other officers, had purchased their own weapons as they felt what the military offered was inferior. Did they factor that in? Didn't sound like it.

So when the archaeologists found few spent cartridges of the military type expected on the hill but lots more down in the gulch where they assessed the soldiers had run after the hill was taken (based on Indian oral stories), they decided little firing was done on the hill.

That ignored souvenir scavengers which everyone knew had been combing that hill for years from right after the massacre. Not many casings from a Springfield found up there makes total sense in that situation. That more would be below also makes sense since human scavengers wouldn't know about the fighting below or go where they'd expect less to be found. Heck even reloaders back then might have wanted those spent cartridges.

Those archaeologists apparently used oral histories only that suited their agenda. You think they didn't have an agenda. Everyone who has been intrigued by the Custer/Crazy Horse story has an agenda!

It appears I've used up my space here but I will relate what I think happened based on reading a lot of biographies, Custer's own words from his book, and a lot of analysis from experts.

It might seem I spent a lot of time on Custer, but I learned so much about the problems and psyche of military men of that time about the fighting that was going on. I think I better understand who my hero was based on the things I read about Custer-- but I'm not done with him. Custer is the mythological hero but he was a real, flesh and blood man. How we see him might impact how we see many other things including the Civil War and the Indian Wars across not only the Plains but the whole nation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

mythology and the hero

You can lose a battle and win a war 
or likewise win a battle and lose a war.

Custer with his scouts 1874-- Library of Congress photo

To understand my cavalry hero for the fourth Oregon historical, I needed to understand the military. When you write about an abstract outlaw, sheriff, rancher, etc., you can play loose with the likely facts but the military has certain absolutes-- or does it? I needed to understand the military of that time. Who better or more written about than George Armstrong Custer?

Some think Custer was made famous by his death at the Little Big Horn. That's not true. He was a celebrity in his own time. His death shocked the nation-- some say as much as JFK's assassination did a later generation. He was politically popular and many think he planned to run for president which considering past candidates isn't impossible. He was immediately blamed for his own actions that day and equally quickly mythologized for the same reason.
 "When a person becomes a model for other people's lives, he has moved into the sphere of being mythologized." Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
Yes, he did have an ability to tell his own story in a way that excited others. When you read his own words in the book he wrote about his life on the plains, he was as effusive in praising others as admitting mistakes he himself made. He comes across as a very likeable man. He was however a man who gave orders, expected discipline from others as he did from himself. He was a teetotaler in a group where heavy drinking was more the order of the day. His physical attributes are definitely part of what led to the mythology. The daring man who can ride all night and fight all day is still a powerful hero image.

Certainly after his death, his widow worked to get out stories he hadn't told, to make sure people saw him as a dedicated man who had fought for the good of all. On the positive side, there were others who added to the mythology. In 1877 when interviewed by a reporter for the New York Herald, Sitting Bull told the story of what he remembered of how Custer died.
Sitting Bull: Up where the last fight took place, where the last stand was made, the Long Hair stood like a sheaf of corn with all the ears fallen around him.
Reporter: Not wounded?
Sitting Bull: No.
Reporter: How many stood with him?
Sitting Bull: A few.
Reporter: When did he fall?
Sitting Bull: He killed a man when he fell. He laughed.
Reporter: You mean he cried out.
Sitting Bull: No, he laughed. He had fired his last shot.
Was this the truth? Was Sitting Bull carrying on a mythology which had also been powerful among the tribes? Who can know. There are as many versions of how Custer died as you could find for any famous event in history. The facts that can be agreed upon were that he was a very young man to acquire leadership. He was quite disciplined, strong, athletic and he demanded discipline from those who served under him which was resented.

Some adored him and others hated him. Just before his death he had been called back to Washington to testify at a corruption trial of President Grant's Secretary of War. Custer testified that they were sending inferior food to the reservations as well as the troops. That and other times he had spoken out earned him Grant's enmity. His having to go there at that time, spend time testifying and then waiting to be released to head West was a factor in the failure at the Little Bighorn. He would have rather been training his troops, getting them ready. Instead that fell to Reno who didn't do much about it. The Seventh that went into battle weren't the equivalent of troops he'd taken with him before when he'd had time to toughen and strengthen their skills. 

Some writers, as did Stephen E. Ambrose in Crazy Horse and Custer, recognize the hero but also the fallible human who could make a mistake-- perhaps for political purposes; but then be willing to pay the price. That is courage either way. I liked James Donovan's, A Terrible Glory for how it showed politics as playing a big role in what happened and its aftermath for both the military, the nation, and the Sioux.

When I got through reading the various versions of the Little Big Horn that day, it was clear that nobody could know for sure how Custer himself died. There are a multitude of explanations for how he had been shot twice, his body was stripped, but not mutilated (beyond holes in both ears and some saying they had poked an arrow up his penis... not sure what meaning that had but the ear holes were to make him hear better next time). I'd read he wasn't scalped because he was balding except that made no sense. Custer always had a high forehead. Most books say he had cut his hair short and it explains it. A few have other, juicier explanations.

This research has helped me understand a lot of how my cavalry officer's life would have been. He was a West Pointer like Custer. He also served in the Civil War as well as fought Indians. Although the battles my hero was engaged in were taking place in Oregon and Custer's were out on the Plains, in a fictional sense, they might they have known each other. My hero would have been the older by 7 years.

Whether Custer was a bad guy or a hero is still hotly debated. Yes, after reading so many books (who could possibly read them all), I have an opinion. Between the letters husband and wife exchanged, their own books of their experiences, I also have an opinion on their marriage. Does my opinion on that or Custer's character make any of it fact?

mealtime, Big Creek Kansas 1869 as Elizabeth went with him wherever possible

What I don't think can be debated is that the United States didn't act honorably with how it took the Black Hills, Pahá Sápa, from the Sioux and cheated them in the doing. The quest Custer was on was one assigned him by Grant and Sheridan. One wanted the land. The other wanted Indians killed. Sheridan famously had said the only good Indian was a dead one and that even though, while earlier serving in Oregon, he had had an Indian mistress whom he left to fight in the Civil War. Custer's death served both purposes more admirably than his surviving and gaining even more fame would have. Was there a conspiracy? Who can know but there are those who profited by the emotional anger stirred up at Custer's death and weren't sad to see him out of the way.

Having been to much of this country, where it is said Crazy Horse was born and later secretly buried, I have strong feelings about what happened. It is said in my family that my grandfather was the first white baby born in the illegally taken land of the Black Hills when his father went there to mine for gold. I've often thought if reincarnation is true, maybe I was part of the Sioux people of that time from whom  the land was taken. I have never wanted to go to the Black Hills but have three times climbed Bear Butte which was/is sacred land to the Plains peoples.

Yes, the Plains tribes had to be convinced to stop warring on the white settlers, and it wasn't really possible that the country would cede them all the land they originally had, but how it was done was disgusting. Men like Custer, serving in the military, often paid the price for that wrong doing.

Custer was a romantic hero with many books written about him as well as 94 movies where he was either main character or secondary and 41 documentaries. There is no mid ground with how people see Custer. Mostly he's demonized or portrayed as the gallant hero. Frankly his flaws don't make him one bit less fascinating.

In one of her books, Elizabeth Custer wrote about her last view of her husband and the 7th Cavalry riding away, their musicians playing, The Girl I left Behind Me. Yes, they really did use music even in an attack and it often was Garry Owen. Music is powerful for inciting emotions; so maybe it makes sense why he used it to the point that in a movie you'd think that couldn't be real. Off on that last campaign, she wrote how a mirage seemed to split the troop in two where half appeared to disappear into the sky. An omen that half would soon be killed? There are a lot of mysterious happenings connected to Custer and the Little Bighorn.

They did ride into mythology-- hero and coward alike as later generations try to find better ways to understand what happened that day. Why has it remained so fascinating and why have people sought for years to discover what actually went wrong? Whose fault was it? Could it have ended differently with different choices being made? Today there are many more tools to approach the questions, but are there better answers? Maybe. I will present more in my next blog as I have more to read and am not done with this man.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Susan Horsnell -- today's guest author

First of all I would like to thank Rain for inviting me onto her blog. I am new to writing and have had a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from established writers such as Rain. For this I am very grateful.

I began writing about 4 years ago when I retired. I had been a nurse for 37 years and although the stories had always been in my head, I just didn’t have time to write them down. Raising 2 boys, working fulltime and having a husband who spent so much time at sea with the Navy was enough of a challenge. 

My first book, The Glenmore’s: Revenge ended up turning into a series–

They are set in Texas and are about 4 siblings in a wealthy and powerful family. I have a little of everything in this series. Murder, Intrigue, Prejudice, Kidnap, Indians and most importantly, Romance. Why I set them in Texas when I am Australian is a bit of a mystery although I do feel an affinity for this state. I have read a great deal about it and I often tell my husband and friends, I must have lived my previous life there. 

My next book was The Stuck-Up Governess about a young girl who was raised to be a lady but treated like a saleable commodity. I loved this story. Two motherless children attempt to bring this straight laced lady and their down to earth father together but it is kidnap and attempted murder which makes them finally realize their love for each other.

I was fortunate to come across Australian author Margaret Tanner after I had written these books and she has been my critique partner, mentor and friend ever since. Thanks to her assistance, the quality of my story telling and writing has greatly improved.

Mail Order Marshall, my next and most popular book, thanks to the drool worthy cover (as one reader put it), is a sweet romance. This brings two people together who are determined never to fall in love or marry. When her life is put in danger, he realizes he has fallen in love and their pretend marriage suddenly becomes real. 

Enter, a book very close to my heart – Blind Acceptance. This is the story of a young boy, Phillip, who is blinded in an accident. I explore the dangers for a 6 year growing up on a cattle ranch when he can’t see the threats. I worked with the newly blind for several years and drew on my experience to convey the anger, frustration and sadness of not only the affected person but also the family. I attempted to show, the blind are not incompetent or a drain on society, they have a great deal to offer. With a little patience and understanding they can be shown to be a valuable contributor to society. 

Unfortunately in the 19th century it was thought if a person was blind they were also an imbecile. For this reason many were closeted away in Mental Institutions where they eventually did become insane. Prejudice against any disability was rife during this time (still is in many ways) and people tended to want the affected out of the way.  Of course, this book is also a romance with a touching relationship between Phillip’s father, Luke, and the young girl he employs, Rachel, to guide his blind son. 

I am currently working on the sequel to Blind Acceptance which is called Blind Achievement. Phillip is now a grown man and he has left home to attend college. It is here he meets the love of his life, Belinda. She harbors secrets that will endanger the young couple and their friends. I am hopeful this will be ready by the end of November. 

All my books are available through at:
My blog address is: You will find interesting articles, all my books with links to Amazon and other authors and their books.
I am also on Facebook and Twitter @susanhorsnell.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter at--

I hope you have enjoyed this snippet about me and I hope you will feel encouraged to read my books.

Excerpt from Blind Acceptance:
Braille: A system of raised dots which enables the blind and visually impaired to read.
Developed in France by Louis Braille, in 1824 when he was just 15 years old. Braille writing was taught with the use of a metal slate, paper and a wooden handled awl. Raised dots were pressed into the paper to enable the blind and visually impaired to read.
Louis then developed Braille musical notation and published a book about this in 1829.
This book is a work of fiction and although some details are accurate some have been embellished for the sake of the story.

Texas 1869
“Marie, will you please just consider it?” Luke asked for the third time in twenty minutes. He was tired of constantly having the same argument with his wife.
Marie stood with her hands on her hips and pursed her lips as she listened to Luke plead. “For the last time; I am not going to home school Phillip. I have better things to do with my time. If Meg can’t teach him any more then he will go to school.”
Luke watched as his wife stormed from the room. He would not let Phillip be sent off to a boarding school in Austin, he wanted to teach his son about life on a ranch.
It was the life Luke loved and he hoped his son would too. If Marie wouldn’t home school their son then he’d hire someone who would.
Marie was such a restless soul; he should never have brought her from Austin to live on his isolated ranch.
She was city born and raised, the only child of a wealthy banker and his wife, and she was more suited to the contacts and social life the city provided.
In the beginning, because of her loneliness he had encouraged Marie to visit the city, but over the last couple of years he suspected she had a lover.
Their marriage was far from perfect; in fact it was a disaster, but to cheat on him with another man. The pain of betrayal was like a knife twisting in his gut.
Years before he’d fallen in love with her beauty and spirit but it was this very spirit that had begun tearing them apart after only six months of marriage.
They had not shared a bed or a bedroom for years, an arrangement that suited them both, and they avoided each other at every opportunity.
Luke wasn’t sure what he felt for Marie any more - indifference, contempt, sympathy; it most certainly wasn’t love. As the mother of his son he had told her he would give her a home with him for as long as she wanted but he refused to pay for lodgings in town where she might be at the beck and call of a lover.
He’d made it quite clear that if that was what she wanted she would have to find a way to pay for it herself or have her lover pay. Phillip would most definitely not join her.
Marie hated the ranch and she had used every trick at her disposal to try to make Luke sell and take her back to the city. It was all to no avail so she had resolved to stay until Phillip was old enough to be sent to a boarding school in the city; that time had finally come.
She had steadfastly refused Luke’s request to allow him to grow up on the ranch. She had said she would not allow her son to grow up in such a backwards place that afforded him no opportunities.
She knew Luke was tired of arguing over it and the sooner she had Phillip ensconced in his school, the sooner she would be free to settle in the city and begin living her life.
Luke strode into the kitchen and found Phillip clutched tight to the bosom of Meg - his cook/housekeeper, and up until now, Phillip’s teacher.
When Phillip noticed his father he disengaged himself from Meg’s grasp and ran to where Luke had crouched down and now held his arms outstretched. Luke swept his son up and held him close as he stood and walked into the parlour.
“Did you hear pardner?” Luke was becoming concerned with the effect the frequent arguments were having on their impressionable child.
The arguments seemed to be disrupting the household more and more and Luke was grateful that Meg protected Phillip from them as much as she could.
“You arguing again?” his brother, Nathan, asked as he marched into the parlour seconds behind Luke. “I heard you clear on over to the corral.”
“Yeah; Marie is still insisting on sending Phillip away to school but I just can’t let it happen.”
“Big brother, you can’t force her to keep Phillip at home and teach him. She wants to go back to Austin herself, you know she isn’t cut out for this life.”
Luke looked thoughtfully at his brother. Nathan had fallen in love with Marie the first time he'd met her. He had told Luke repeatedly for the first couple of years they were married that if Marie was his wife he would give up the ranch and take her off to a city for the life she so desperately wanted.
If Nathan didn’t love and respect his brother as much as he did, Luke thought he might have saddled up with Marie and headed off to Austin a few years ago.
Fortunately, as Nathan had grown older he’d also grown wiser and he could see Marie now for the woman she was. He told Luke she was everything he didn’t want in his wife.
Luke couldn’t, and didn’t want to, leave the ranch he loved more than anything else in the world; except for his son. His father and grandfather had worked hard to build the Circle J Ranch from nothing when they’d first arrived out west from Tennessee. Luke was convinced it was Phillip’s legacy he protected.
Marie could do what she liked.
He’d gladly give her the divorce she’d been asking for lately, but he would never give up his son.


As a side note: I would like to add how supportive and generous Susan has been to all the writers from the time she came into the western writer group. Writing can seem a lonely business and she has made it less so with her giving attitude.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

and then there is this...

When you are writing a story, often pieces will just come together. This happens as you write or even when you are imagining how it will all happen. It happens as you begin to know your characters.

When I wrote Desert Inferno, I spent time thinking of not only the hero and heroine but also the villain. Villains are an important counterpoint to the good of the hero and heroine. This one had something occult about him without it going so far as into the metaphysical. He believed he had power through ancient Aztec rituals and sacred items. One in particular was a crystal skull which I knew had been created back then in the Mayan and Aztec cultures.

Recently I came across the following article which pretty much validates what I felt about the villain's belief he could gain power through such methods. I hadn't read it when I wrote the book but like how truths often come together even if it takes awhile. I wouldn't change the book because it says enough as it is but this is an interesting addition.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

secondary characters

Once in awhile there is a secondary character who is so appealing that they get their own book. David Bannister was that in Desert Inferno. When that happens, I begin to think about that character's back story. It turned out David had an ex-wife and that led to Bannister's Way in the art world of a small liberal arts college (all fiction) and the investigation of a murder.

When I was looking for a snippet, I liked a lot of the dialogue between David and his ex-wife but this book also has a bromance. I always like to write about men and their interactions hence this snippet-- from the two investigative partners who had frequently played tricks on each other.

When he heard the light tapping at the door of his hotel room, he lay quietly, pretending to be asleep. Soon the door pushed open, light fell through the crack as a body moved in and slid the door closed almost silently.
David waited, his eyes closed, every muscle ready. As the figure approached his bed, he lunged forward, grabbed a wrist. Yanking hard, he threw the large body onto his bed, landing on top of it with his muscular forearm pressed tightly against a windpipe, cutting off the man's ability to talk and nearly to breathe.
"Visiting?" he hissed in his victim's ear, not letting up on the pressure even as he heard the little coughing sound. "Have a good time today, Rich? Lot of fun?"
There was a sound of choked laughter.
"If you can still laugh, I must not be pushing hard enough," David growled, increasing the pressure before he sat up, allowing his victim to slide to the floor, coughing and gulping in wheezing breaths.
"I take it," a rasping voice gasped when it could, "that you didn't appreciate your new job." More broken laughter followed.
David smiled coldly, waiting as Richard Vance managed to pull himself onto the bed to sit beside him. "What do you think, Rich? Did you think I'd enjoy posing in the buff for a bunch of over-sexed teen-agers? Huh? Is that what you really thought?"
Rich coughed again, rubbing his throat cautiously. "You could’ve killed me, Dave."
"I think the key word there is could have," David said through his teeth. "I swore today, when I found out what you'd set me up for--that I would kill you."
"It was the perfect dodge, the ideal way to get you in with a position to… attract interest," Vance said, a laugh still in his voice, "and besides that, it was the only opening."
"Why didn't you do it then?"
"I told you. I don't have the body for it," Vance said with a grin, patting his wide girth with appreciation. "Can you see them wanting to draw or make a clay sculpture of this middle-aged guy? The students would have been abandoning ship left and right." He stopped and chuckled again. "I'd have sure given a lot though to see your face when you found out you had to take off your clothes." After the abuse of his vocal cords, his laugh was a wheezing sort of sound.
David gritted his teeth. "I'm surprised you didn't sign up for the class."
"I might have tried--except I've already been around the school, asking questions as an investigator. They'd have never believed me. I'd have sure loved to see your face though. I'll bet that was a sight."
"I still might kill you," David grated with a tight smile.
"Come on, the experience was good for you. Loosen you up a little, Bannister. You could use it."
"Thanks, but I think I'll choose my own loosening up next time--if you don't mind."
"How about seeing your ex-wife again? That must have been good. She's a looker, your ex. I don't know why you left her."
"Correction-- I would not exactly say I left her, and it was a real thrill to see her," David said with a curl of his lip, “when she saw me as a man who is so broke he has to pose for money--as a man who has a hotel room instead of a home--a motorcycle instead of an automobile. Yeah, Rich, it was a real thrill all around."
"Well, it couldn't be helped. If you looked like you weren't broke, nobody'd believe somebody like you would've taken the job."
"I look broke all right. I am broke. In that wallet you gave me, besides my agency ID hidden in a secret flap, all it had was a Colorado driver’s license. Not even a buck. What am I supposed to live on?"
        "Soup kitchen next door,” Vance chuckled.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paty Jager-- today's guest author

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay, award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

With sixteen published books, three novellas, and an anthology, Paty is never at a loss for story ideas and characters in her head. Her rural life in central and eastern Oregon and interests in local history and the world around her keeps the mystery and romance ideas flowing. 

Secondary Characters- When do they go from being secondary to main characters? 
By Paty Jager

Secondary characters in my books aren’t always expected. In that I mean, I usually figure out the sidekicks and the important secondary characters in the beginning when I do my process called stewing and brewing. This happens in the early stages of a book’s conception where I start thinking about the main characters and what hurdles can I put between them and what the premise of the book is going to be about.

Once I have the main characters figured out, I sit down and write up bios about them starting as far back as is pertinent to their role in the story. This is when a sidekick or friend might come into the mix as a secondary character. With the first book of the Halsey Brother Series, Marshal in Petticoats, I came up with the idea of an accident prone young woman becoming marshal of an equally accident prone town. But to make her plight more compelling she’s on the run with her younger brother (sidekick) from their evil uncle. She dresses like a young man to be able to move about without being hindered by the proprieties of the times. But that also lands her with the job of marshal when she accidentally shoots a bank robber.

The secondary characters in this story that popped up out of the blue were Gil, the hero’s, brothers. I hadn’t thought too much about his background only that he was a drifter and trying to hide from something. When I gave Darcy, the heroine, strong family values, I decided Gil would be estranged from his brothers, but, lo and behold, their names popped up one day and the reason he fled the family mine and before the book ended the reader has met each of the brothers. In their short appearances in the first book, I fell in love with each of them and knew once Marshal in Petticoats was published, I’d be writing a book for each of the brothers.

There are always secondary characters who are only in one or two scenes. Those I add as they pop into the scene and only give them as much life as is needed to move the book forward and give needed information to the story.

To answer your question: Do you prefer writing series or stand-alone books?
I like to write both. I enjoy the challenge of a new stand-alone book, I have three historical and two contemporary westerns that are stand alones. But I also like the familiarity of writing a series. After a couple in the same series, the rest of the books are easier to write because you know at least one of the main characters so well and the secondary characters that were in the previous books. This familiarity make the books write faster in my opinion. 


This month you can purchase Paty's five book Halsey Brothers Series in an ebook box set for $.99. The reason the set is at such a good price this month only is to get readers involved in the Halsey family so they will be clamoring for the first book of a Halsey Homecoming Trilogy that will be available in November.  

Laying Claim is set in the Yukon during the gold rush. Jeremy, Darcy’s little brother in Marshal in Petticoats is all grown up and making money in the Yukon as a guide and packer to prove he can make it on his own without the Halsey family backing.

Laying Claim starts out with a young woman arriving in Skagway, Alaska and determined to travel over the treacherous Chilkoot Trail to find her brother. He is the heir to the family business in Seattle and the only person who can help her mother and siblings avoid ending up out on the street. Duped several times at her arrival to Skagway, it becomes clear to Clara Bixbee she needs to find an honest guide. Everyone has high praise for Jeremy Duncan so she seeks him out. And that is where the sparks begin to fly.
Blurbs for the Box Set:

Halsey Brothers Series - Five historical western romance novels set in Oregon in the 1800's.
Marshal in Petticoats
After accidentally shooting a bank robber, Darcy Duncan becomes marshal of a town as accident prone as herself.  And she’s not about to take orders from a corrupt mayor or a handsome drifter.
Gil Halsey discovers the new marshal is a passionate woman hell bent on proving the mayor is corrupt and dodging outlaws to clear her name.
Outlaw in Petticoats
Maeve Loman accepts Zeke Halsey’s offer to help her discover the truth behind her father's disappearance even though she hasn’t met a man who can keep his promise.
Zeke Halsey has wanted Maeve Loman since he first set eyes on the prickly schoolteacher. Offering to help her find her father, he hopes to prove he’s not going anywhere.
Miner in Petticoats
Ethan Halsey is determined to fulfill his father’s wishes to provide for his brothers. The only drawback is a feisty woman who refuses to part with the land he needs.
Aileen Miller has had two husbands. She isn’t about to allow another man to dictate her life or the lives of her two children.
Doctor in Petticoats
Dr. Rachel Tarkiel gave up on love after a devastating accident and settled for a life healing others. 
Blinded by a person he considered a friend, Clay curses his circumstances and his limitations. Can their love overcome their internal fears and the obstacles life throws at them or will a mysterious man keep them apart forever?
Logger in Petticoats
Hank Halsey believes he’s found the perfect logging crew—complete with cooks—until he discovers Kelda Nielson would rather swing an axe than flip eggs.
Strong and stubborn, Kelda Nielsen grew up falling trees, and resents any man who believes she’s not capable, until Hank.

You can purchase the Halsey Brothers Series box set at:
Kindle                    Nook              Kobo     

Learn more about Paty at her blog;   
website; or on 
and twitter;  @patyjag. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Romance adventures

If you've ever read romances, you already know that within the broad genre, there are many sub-genres; so it's not so simple that you just write a romance. Readers have definite preferences although a few, like myself, bounce between genres. It is wise as a writer to figure out each book's genre if you hope to reach its most likely readers.

 image purchased from CanStock

How much sex is one of those issues. There are many options. It can be sweet, spicy or erotic. Even within a plot type, it can be any of those. Some rank the sex from 1 to 5 with 5 meaning anything pretty much goes. 1, of course, is sweet kisses and no tongue-- think Jane Austen where there might not even be a kiss.

A romance will also be set into a category that is defined by its time period-- contemporary, historical or future? Future times are fantasy to some level.

In each time period, you can find romances that are sci fi; time travel, erotica; inspirational; suspense; mystery; paranormal; multicultural; adventure; and what might be termed chick lit not to mention standard literature which is where you often find Nicholas Sparks books even though they are clearly romances. 

Historical can be any of the above as well as what nation and what time period. A lot of writers, and I am one, tend to stay within a nation. I write about the American West whether its historical or contemporary because it's what I know. If I was into traveling and spent time say in England regularly, I might've chosen to write then as I enjoy reading English history in a romance.

Well, I did when I had time to read for pleasure. Right now I barely can read a novella or skim through a book that I don't expect to be demanding-- other than when the latest Longmires come out. Addictions must be fed, dontchaknow. Otherwise I guess I prefer reading contemporaries (at the moment) but that changes when an exciting possibility comes along to tempt me into someone's historical.

I like contemporaries because the women are more like I am. The expectations and her possibilities are endless. The books I write and enjoy reading often involve a criminal element with maybe an investigator which could be her, him or both. It's fun to read something about a woman who could be me but isn't. And who what she goes through I'd never want to but have fun being there for a few hours in the safety of my Kindle.

Many readers only read within a specific genre. Others move around from one to another field. I am not sure what's better from a writer's standpoint. I have heard that the most popular historical romances are set in England but I personally prefer them set in America.

What I write, always are stories about couples who are falling in love or rediscovering their love while they wrestle with an emotional complication and face a danger. I want adventure along with the romance. I want a situation that tests these two people against  the elements or an enemy. I've only written a few stories where that isn't the case.

In romances there is always a conflict between these two potential lovers. I want that to be believable without some kind of phony conflict that literally makes no sense other than a writer's fun. My own writing makes me very picky about the books I read and where another reader might love some element that to me seems forced, I will be grumbling. I think writing yourself both adds to and detracts probably from enjoying reading your own genre.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Iron

Inspiration for writing westerns can come from anywhere, but nobody's better at providing it than Marty Robbins. This song always makes me think of my son-in-law. I can't help it but whenever I hear it I see him as that ranger heading out in the street for a showdown against a bad guy.

If you aren't into westerns, give the video a look anyway as it's full of historic photos from that period. Now besides my son-in-law, I can imagine it being the hero of my western romance, Tucson Moon, to come in late November-- U.S. Deputy Marshal Cord O'Brian (before the time of the Arizona Rangers). He's the lawman who later began the Circle O ranch which was in the contemporary western, Desert Inferno.

I have to say that I have a soft spot for men who keep the law. They get a bad rap today but whether they are border patrolmen, cops on the beat, government investigators, or military (that one is currently being written), they are the ones standing between disaster and the rest of us. They walk in when we run out. Yes, there are some bad apples among them but tell me where we'd be without them?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

when it works... or doesn't.

Okay-- true confessions. It has been a year since I finished the book which I felt would lead directly into a fourth Oregon historical. I knew the time period. I figured out the essence of the characters but starting the actual writing had gone nowhere (a novella and historical western came between). To inspire myself, in the midst of researching I sat myself down in the middle of the action and wrote a small vignette. It gave me more feel for who the hero and heroine would be but wasn't quite what I wanted for a direction.

I needed more community, solid secondary characters who are interesting to me. Although I could set this new story into the characters from the previous three, I hadn't actually wanted to do that. I wanted to put them into a town where I have been many times but never, of course, during the period in which the book will be set. I began to wonder, despite its interesting diversity of Chinese, Indians, miners, military, shopkeepers, even a poet, what would these people really be like?

Finally the story began to take shape. I expect when I am there again, which should be about when this gets posted, I'll find even more ideas. The following vignette won't be part of the book because I took the story a different direction. Still it has the feel I want for the hero and heroine.

This one titled 'Love Waits' will be a complex story in a complex time, with some historical elements which I didn't know much about. It will also be my first where the heroine is as much warrior as the hero. I always write about women who can rise to the challenge but this is a woman who has chosen that way of life for herself.


As soon as Rand rode into the narrow canyon, past the blue walls, around the bend and saw four men and Belle, guns pointed at him, he understood it was a trap. It was too late to turn around; so he rode boldly forward with only one question in his mind. Was Belle part of the plan? Seeing her standing beside her horse gave him no clue. Neither did her employer who moved to take her arm.
“How nice to see you, Captain,” Forester said with a broad smile.
“Wish I could say the same thing,” Rand said pulling Jess to a halt. The odds were against him if he decided shooting his way out. He had no clue from the stoic expression on Belle’s face as to what her part in all this was. Had she been forced to write the note?
“Get off your horse,” Forester ordered and when Rand didn’t immediately obey, he put his gun against Belle’s temple. “You could decide to disobey but she won’t like the results. Such a lovely face to destroy.”
“Don’t do it, Rand,” she said wincing a little as the barrel dug into her skin. “He won’t really kill me.”
Rand dismounted and a moment later two men had grabbed his arms, unbuckled his gun belt, unbuttoned his jacket, pulled it and his shirt from him and bound his hands together behind his back.
“Your major is a better judge of men than you, my dear,” Forester said releasing his grip on Belle.
“You can’t kill him,” she said with her chin in the air. Rand had to smile. No matter what the situation, Belle never seemed to lose her grit. That was good as at this point, grit was all either of them had.
“What did you want with me?” Rand asked even though he had a pretty good idea. He also had no respect for a man who would be stupidly lured to an assignation with a beautiful woman even if that man was himself.
“You have been way too nosy into my dealings,” Forester said. “If you had stayed out of it, you’d not find yourself in the situation you’re in. Fight Indians, wasn’t that your job? When did it become protect the Chinese or investigate graft?”
“Let her go and we can discuss this,” Rand said aware his hands were beginning to grow numb from the tight bonds.
“Too late for that. Here’s the plan. Two young lovers come out here, get carried away with their passion, a rock slide, horses run off. He’s hurt. She can’t leave him. They die of heat and thirst. Such a sad story. I will, of course, grieve for Belle. Her mistake was choosing a lover who was so inappropriate.”
Belle should have been crying, weeping and in a panic as one of Forester’s men tied her wrists behind her back, but she stood without a word and let them do it. He felt proud of her while he also wished she had never written him the note. Likely she’d had no choice.
“You won’t get away with it,” Rand said.
“Rough him up a little,” Forester said. Two of his men grinned. While one held Rand’s arms, the other drove his fist into his belly, doubling him up. The blows that followed were hard and fast until he finally crumbled to his knees.
“The proud major humbled,” Forester said with a smile. “Well here’s how this scenario works out. At the mouth of this canyon, my men will wait. You two can console each other if you wish but without water or anyway to do the things you will so wish to do. As your thirst grows, you might even lose interest in that. We’ll be back later to take the bodies into town. Such a tragedy.” He laughed and he and his men rode off down the canyon.
“Why did you come?” she hissed as she crawled over to him.
“Why did you write me the note?” he asked when he could say it without a groan.
“I didn’t. Anything you got didn’t come from me.”
“There’s a knife in my boot,” he said, “try to get it out.”
“And do what?”
“Cutting us free would be a good start.”
She smiled then and bent forward to kiss his bloody lips. “Just slipping my hands free might work better than possibly slitting your wrists.” A moment later her hands were free. She lifted her riding skirt.
“Not that I don’t admire your beautiful legs,” he said already thirsty, “but how about getting me free first.”
She smiled as she revealed a sheath attached to her thigh with a small knife. He twisted around to give her a better angle to cut the rope. When he was free, he began rubbing his hands and trying to decide what options they had. Going out the mouth of the canyon clearly wasn’t one of them. Two knives against armed men was another way to end up dead; dead wasn’t what he wanted to be.
Before she could move away, he grabbed her and pulled her to him. “I thought we were done for,” he said as he bent to claim her lips.
“We still might, and you’re getting amorous,” she said with a laugh but met his kiss with as much passion.
“I plan not to get killed. But we have to move fast.” He pointed to the wall of the canyon. “We have to go up.”
She felt of his forehead. “You must be running a fever. We’d be killed faster that way than with them.”
“Look again.” He pointed to the way the ledge sloped. “That’s hard rock and it forms a small trail for animals. We can take it up and get out of this trap. We can’t stay here with no water.”
Rand, falling is a quicker way to die than thirst.”
“Why don’t we do neither?”
She licked her lips. “Have I mentioned I am scared of heights?”
He smiled and took her into his arms. “Those guys will come back when they figure we are dead of dehydration. How appealing is that to you?” He counted on her courage to give him the answer he wanted.
She sighed and looked up again. “All right, but if I fall, I am taking you with me.”
“I think you already did that.” He smiled and took her hand leading her over to the cliff as he studied the rock formation. The layers came in diverse colors, some crumby but some were solid looking. When they got to the top, so far as he could see, he’d be able to lift her up. Then he’d have to figure his own way up as the last five feet didn’t look nearly as stable. He glanced over at her uneasy expression and decided not to mention that part.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

taking the O'Brians into today

Often when I am writing a book, I think about continuing a few characters. From Desert Inferno, I took a secondary character forward a few years to Bannister's Way (picked up some characters from Evening Star-- Rachel's cousin) but hadn't actually expected to go back into the settling of the Circle O. When I figured out what that history was, Tucson Moon was born.

The people who seemed so real to me in the two historics (Arizona Sunset came first) were ancestors of the heroine of Desert Inferno which takes place in the same rugged country. Have things gotten any safer? Not a lot.

Snippet from Desert Inferno where the heroine first meets her own hero:

When a truck finally did come bouncing down the driveway, Rachel sighed with relief. Standing at the top of the step, she waited. Still feeling a little dazed by the death she'd witnessed, she realized she'd forgotten to put on shoes.
A large man unwound himself from the green Bronco, his eyes hidden behind the brim of a Stetson and reflective sunglasses.  Her immediate impression was of one big man.
Even shaky from her experience, her artist's eye couldn't ignore the sheer grace with which he moved that long, lean, body as he strode across her yard.  When he reached the porch, he stopped, not climbing the three steps.  He looked at her for a moment, perhaps expecting her to speak; then pulled off the glasses. 
His face was craggy, with a hawk-like nose, a long scar across one cheek, a square jaw, covered with a day's growth of bristle, and magnificent tawny, almost yellow eyes, rimmed with dark lashes. Nobody could call it a handsome face, maybe some would even see it as ugly, but it was mesmerizing to her. Beneath his Stetson, his hair appeared to be dark blond, a little long on the neck for a Border Patrolman. 
         "You the one who called?" His voice was deep, resonant. Those, golden eyes, appeared to look right through her.
"You're Border Patrol?" She could only blame the stupid question on her shock over the morning because his uniform clearly made it unnecessary.
When he smiled, the expression never reached his eyes. "Jake Donovan." He reached into a back pocket and pulled out ID. "Sorry I look... rough. I’ve been on an all-night stake-out."
Trying to get control of herself, she looked away from his eyes and found her gaze traveling down his body. Ignoring the dusty and wrinkled clothing, she saw broad shoulders, muscular chest, tapering to narrow, horseman hips.  Swallowing hard, she looked at the only safe place she could think of--the ground.  "I didn't expect... that is, yes, I'm the one who called," she answered finally.
"They said you found a body." His voice was deep, the tone carefully politely.
She forced her gaze back to meet his. "Well, to begin with he wasn't a body. That is, he wasn't dead but--"
"You're sure he was before you left him," he tried to finish for her, shaking his head in barely concealed frustration at trying to get a straight story from her.
"Of course. That is--" She was doing a good job of convincing him she was simple-minded.
"Start at the beginning and take your time," he suggested.
"I expected a deputy sheriff," she said abruptly changing the subject.
"You want to call and make sure I am who I say I am?" he asked. His eyes did look tired and he was making an obvious effort to be polite.
"No, it's just I thought... I guess the county police or something."
"I was closest. They asked me to stop, and unless there was sign of foul play, it could be our business anyway."
Rachel nodded, satisfied, but still flustered by her strange reaction to this man. She explained then about her painting, about seeing white where it shouldn't have been, then finding the man.
"If you give me instructions, I'll take a look," he said.
"Well I... It's off toward Alamo Canyon, but I don't think I could explain. I better show you."
He grimaced. "I know this country pretty well. Draw me a map."
She shook her head. "I wish I could. It's just I never think about where I'm going when I'm going, which way is north or south. Matilda and I just drive. I never know where we'll end up."
His eyes lit with interest. "Matilda?  Maybe she could help."
"I doubt that." She smiled. “She's my truck."
He looked away, swallowing whatever he looked as though he would have preferred to say. He patted his shirt pocket, curling his lip as if remembering something unpleasant. "Are you sure you can find it again... by this feeling or whatever it is?"
"Get your boots on then and come with me."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"Huh?"  Those golden eyes narrowed, and his lips thinned.
"If I drive, I can retrace my steps. It's not the same if someone else drives. These old dirt roads, well they all look a lot alike." She stopped, shivering as she thought of the dead body. She looked up at him, knowing she felt suddenly near tears. "I'd like it if you rode with me... It would give me something else to think about if I was driving and… well, I'd rather not drive back alone. Would that be okay? That is can you do that?"
It was obvious he didn’t like leaving his truck, probably against regulations. He rubbed the back of his neck, as though fighting off a headache.  When he looked back at her, she thought he appeared to be seeing her for the first time and not much liking what he saw. Rachel met his gaze and tilted up her chin.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Politics in a book?

 creating business cards while it storms :)

Politics in your book or not? Discuss politics anywhere and lose readers who disagree with you? You can insert spirituality there just as well. How controversial can you get before it costs you readers?

Well in our culture, with people putting up enemy lists every time any celebrity dares to speak their mind, I'd say it's pretty obvious that to put politics into the books or talk about your beliefs can infuriate some enough that they won't buy your books or if they did and found a political agenda in them with which they disagreed, they'd throw them back.

So does that make the answer to the question easy? Keep your mouth shut? Especially if you are a woman and everybody knows women don't have political sense. Look how long it took for them to get a right to vote. In Oregon that would be 1912. The year my mother was born was the first year her mother could have voted in any federal election. Wyoming women were given the vote in their state in 1870, When they went into the Union in 1890, they famously said they'd not go if they could not take their women.

There are assorted reasons given for why Wyoming men were so adamant but many think it was the pioneer lifestyle where women were so important and strong-- where women often did a man's work. If so, how to explain Oregon?

Whatever the reasoning, the thinking of many for not letting women vote was they would only do what their husbands said, that women didn't have minds that could think politically and hence should not be allowed to vote. Silly creatures. Since women hadn't always even been allowed to own land, I guess they were used to being held down. Some today still think politics is an inappropriate subject for a woman-- hence since most romances are written by women, it's not for them either.

Alas I recognize that they might be right about politics not being popular and losing readers when an author or book expresses strong views. However, I grew up hearing politics discussed and without fistfights. To me politics isn't just about government but about all interactions between humans which means business, community, family, the arts, etc.  How boring a book would be to ignore a lot of the essence of why things happen as they do. If we write a story about a community today, can we ignore the dynamics within it?

Yes, we can write pablum and sweeten our stories to ignore the reality of the times through which people live. I've done stories with very little political thinking in them-- where I have characters caught up in their own dilemma to the point they can't really get beyond to anything more until it's been solved. If you are struggling to survive, politics aren't high on your list of important issues-- unless, of course, politics is what got you there.

I've also taken a rodeo story like Luck of the Draw and inserted into it some of the issues of 1974 which involved the Vietnam War. I used some of the arguments I heard in my own family during those years and I think it added meat to the story. Will it offend some readers? Possibly. Just as Moon Dust being about our educational system, sexual abuse, and extreme right ideology probably has cost it readers. To be honest, if I had to write formula type stories, I'd not want to write fiction at all. I like encompassing the problems we face with a love story and in my stories-- some outside danger.

and bookmarks hopefully to find places to leave and give to friends
Every writer has to work this question out for themselves. Do they let the political thinking of the times (today or history) find its way into their book? There isn't one answer for everyone. There is for me-- when it fits, it goes in, but I won't force it to try and proselytize.

As for speaking my mind politically as a citizen, I will always do that. I have grandchildren and care about the world in which they are growing up, the world where they will build their own lives. I have to speak up.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Give or take a lie or two

 If you ever saw the film, Sunset, which was about Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix solving a murder mystery in early Hollywood, the above line was one Earp (played by James Garner who had earlier played Earp in a western) said to Tom Mix about the stories told of his time in Tombstone. It suits a lot of history anecdotes.

The fascinating thing about Western history (or any history), is how many versions you can find with backup for multiple positions. It's one of the things that I enjoy about True West that it has these stories, giving both sides and looking at the evidence. This is such a story and what likely happened.

For a brief period of time in the Old West, a certain type of man felt his reputation was enhanced by victorious gunfights. It explains a lot of what seems senseless behavior where one man overpowering or killing another in a fair fight might make him seem more intimidating to others-- or was that more tempting.

Such a story was the one of John Wesley Hardin and the man known as Wild Bill Hickok with one version told by Hardin in his own book written in 1896. True or not? In True West, a segment called Investigating History by Mark Boardman, it looks as though it was not.

So in Hardin's version, it was Abilene, Kansas, 1871, the 18-years old Hardin claimed Hickok who was then 24 told him to give up his guns as he'd been getting loud, and it was against the law to carry them in Abilene. In his telling of it, Hardin claimed they went outside where he got the best of Hickok by doing a border roll but then didn't shoot him leading to the two men becoming best friends, 'knights of the prairie cut from the same cloth' so to speak.

Did it happen that way? Not according to research done for a book, Violence in the Old West, by Chuck Parsons and Norman Wayne Brown. Until this book, Hardin's was the only account of the confrontation with no witnesses or news stories backing it up. To further make it questionable, Hardin only told the story after Hickok had been killed in 1876.

The authors looked at other lies told by Hardin, Hickok's demonstrable ability with guns, and that Hardin had killed other lawmen; so why believe Hickok would be foolish enough to not be careful with a gun around Hardin?

There are even more reasons to doubt it when someone who was in Abilene that day told a different version in the saloon where Hickok walked in saying, "Arkansaw (his nickname for Hardin) you better put that pistol up before you let it go off and hurt somebody." According to the witness, Hardin did and that was all to the story. Not very exciting though to enhance an autobiography was it? Hence the embroidery.

It was true-- give or take a lie or two.