Monday, September 30, 2013


 With the internet we can “visit” anywhere. No need for a trip to the library with pads of paper, a handful of pens, and coins for the copy machine. With my own research books plus the internet, I’m usually set. I still love the library, but for pleasure reading. Writing is my business.

For my current work in progress, I have the hero and heroine travel through Texas. I pulled out my map, Texas Almanac, and went to the online Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas. Fortunately, I’ve driven most of the places on my characters’ journey, but they’re on horseback.

I asked author Paty Jager, who has horses, how far my heroine and hero could ride in a day. It depends on the terrain. Great, so I have to determine the lay of the land as well as what towns were around in 1888. There are a lot of hills on this journey to slow them down until they get to the flatter prairie.

I love writing, and research gets me in the mood even more. Making use of the interesting tidbits I’ve learned fulfills me. Hopefully, they will seem organic and not as if I’m teaching a history lesson.

Federal Marshal Storm Kincaid
My hero is Storm Kincaid from my earlier Kincaid series, THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND. He is a favorite character for me and I want his book to be especially deserving of him. His heroine is Renata “Rena” Haussmann Dmitriev, a German immigrant whose elderly husband-in-name-only was killed by the men Storm is chasing. 

In the hope of whetting your appetite for the October 30th release of THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP, here is an excerpt of the opening scene. The year is 1888 and the place is the Texas Hill Country west of Austin.

Rena Haussmann Dmitriev
Rena Dmitriev snapped clusters of wild grapes from the vines in the ravine near her home. She popped one of the plump fruit into her mouth. Tart and sweet combined, and worth enduring the stifling August heat to harvest. She intended to gather enough fruit to make jelly for the coming year.
Hooves thundered near and caused her to pause and listen. Visitors? No one came to call on this isolated place, and why the rush? She rose and grabbed her fruit pail and hurried down the sandy gully toward her home.
A gunshot almost paralyzed her with fear. Chickens squawked then more shots sounded. An anguished moo from her milk cow stopped her. Her animals, who would shoot her animals? She dropped her bucket and ran as fast as her heavy skirts allowed.
Abram cried, “Pfeiffersburg!” 
She halted and her chest hitched. Her legs trembled and she needed to sit down.  No, staying here offered no refuge.
Abram and she had chosen Pfeiffersburg as their warning word. Before their families were killed and he rescued her, they’d lived in separate sections of Pfeiffersburg in Bavaria. If Abram shouted that alert, it meant trouble had arrived too serious for her to help.
Quickly, she must hide. And without making a sound. She crept to the ravine’s crevice her husband had artfully concealed. Edging her way through the narrow tunnel, she reached the secret place he had built. Abram had shaped a dead tree stump so it looked as if it had been cut down from the middle of the plum thicket behind their home.
In reality, he’d hollowed the dead wood and set it firmly with concealed holes that offered a view of the house and yard. The stump stuck above the tunnel three feet, with a small platform beneath the dirt floor where she could stand. At her right, a small shelf held a few provisions.
From that ledge, she grabbed the box containing a spare revolver. Her shaking fingers removed the gun, but couldn’t use it. What she saw forced her to hold back a scream. Four rough men battered her elderly husband. She held her breath until her chest threatened to explode.
To remain quiet, she gulped down breaths. Her entire body shook while her heartbeat raced. She wanted to help Abram as he had helped her years ago, but knew her efforts would be futile and only result in her death. Peering from each cleverly disguised hole, she surveyed the yard.
Already the barn burned. Slaughtered chickens lay strewn around the ground. Blood from the head of her lovely milk cow stained the ground red. The stench of blood mingled with smoke. Why? Why would these men kill a poor cow and chickens? And why torture a helpless old man? 
Rena forced herself to study the villains and memorized each horrid man’s features. So confident were they, they’d made no attempt to cover their faces. With another gasp, she realized that meant they intended to leave no one who might identify them.
Poor Abram barely lived, but still the men tortured him.
The largest man with long black hair hit her husband. “Where’s your woman?”
Abram’s gasping words were barely audible, “Pfeiffersburg! I told you, she vent to help her sister.”
A man with red hair kicked Abram’s ribs. “Why do you keep yelling that word?”
He’d grown so weak, Abram’s gasps barely reached her. “Ve are from Pfeiffersburg. I vish I vere dere now.”
The large man grabbed Abram up by his shirt and shook him. “You tell me where she’s hiding or I’ll skin you alive. Fresh laundry means she’s here somewhere. Tell me now, old man.”
Abram held fast to his claim. “I vash clothes because she iss gone. A man alone must do the chores.”
“Then why are women’s clothes hanging to dry? I think you’re lying old man.”
“Nein, I am alone. My woman is gone.”
The man she believed to be the leader peered around. “There’s a woman here or nearby. I want her.”
Another man limped from the house. “Lookee here what I found.” He held up Abram’s chest holding their savings and all that Abram salvaged from Bavaria. No, not her dowry! Abram intended that for her fresh start when he died. Without it, who would marry her? Without it, how would she live?
In the same man’s other hand, he held jewelry.  She recognized the chain and her mother’s locket dangling from his hand—a hand with two fingers missing. That locket and a few other pieces represented all she had left of her mother.
Terror changed to anger. What right had these men to steal and kill? She and Abram hurt no one, minded their own business, and worked hard. Now these four evil men took everything, including her husband’s life.
The three-fingered man yanked a tablecloth from the clothes line and emptied the chest onto the square. He knotted the corners together then wrapped the knotted section with a rope he tied to his saddle.
Poor Abram had lasted longer than she could have imagined for a man near eighty. Sobs shook her body and she pressed a hand to her mouth to prevent an outcry.  With a final shot, Abram’s suffering ended. She thanked God her poor husband was free from those brutal men’s pain and torture.
The large man she believed to be the leader scanned the area. Did he sense her presence? Would her hiding place really fool him? He mounted his horse.
The four set her house on fire, pulled the clothesline down, and rode away. Once again, she’d lost everything. The quilt she’d pieced last winter. Curtains she’d sewn. Furniture she’d polished only yesterday. 
What should she do? She had to bury her husband, but what if the men returned? Afraid to move, she clasped the revolver and waited in case they came back to search for her.
She sent up prayers for Abram’s soul and her own safety. Was it wrong to pray while she held a gun? She lost track of time, weeping to herself in great, gulping sobs. Always she had tried to please her elderly husband to repay him for rescuing her years ago. What was to become of her now with no dowry and no one to help her?
The sound of a horse approaching frightened her more than she thought possible. She shook uncontrollably. Had the evil men returned?  
 A new man rode a huge blue roan and led a second chestnut animal. He leaped from his mount with grace that still spoke of masculinity. Tall and dressed in black, he wore one of the broad hats these Texans favored. Handsome and not much older than her twenty-one years, he appeared fit and strong.
The man wasted no time. After a glance at Abram, the newcomer pulled his bandana over his lower face and nose. The blaze consumed the barn in loud crashes. The cabin walls and roof still stood, but greedy flames licked at the contents. Smoke billowed from the small building.
She feared this man might also be a thief, but he rushed into the house.
“Anyone here? Call out so I can find you.”
A few seconds later, he emerged coughing and gasping for air. He removed the handkerchief from his face and neck and wiped away sweat and ash. With quick motions, he retrieved a sheet from the ground and spread it near Abram’s body.
As if Abram weighed nothing, the large man laid her husband on the linen. Using the care one saved for a living infant, he tucked Abram into the sheet. Och, surely such a gentle, considerate man could not be bad.

The stranger stood and looked where she hid. “You can come out now.” He opened his jacket to display a badge on his waistcoat. “I’m a Federal Marshall chasing the men who did this. My name is Storm Kincaid.”

Thanks for stopping by!

No comments: