Monday, February 27, 2023
Identity by Nora Roberts
Friday, February 24, 2023
BUILDING A SERIES
By Caroline Clemmons
Readers often ask me where I get my ideas. The answer is, ideas are the easy part of writing. They pop into my head several times a day. A memory, a news story, or a bit of conversation may spark a kernel for a story.
For instance, the idea for my current Texas Hill Country Mail Order Brides Series came as the result of a photo I came across when searching for a different one. The one I found was from a trip our family took many years ago to the Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera, Texas. That is in the southern Hill Country, near the Medina River. The experience delighted our daughters and me. Hero was not as enthusiastic, but he was a good sport. (By the way, I'll never choose such a long series name again.)
The photo reminded me how much we love spending time in the Hill Country, and the several times we have included that area on vacations. Unfortunately, the photos have faded too much to be used here. They were processed at a place that used a defective process. Darling Daughter 2 and I even drove through the area on our way home from a conference in San Antonio. Well, it wasn’t officially on our way, but a delightful detour. To us, everything interesting is “on our way.”
I enjoy reading and writing mail order bride stories. I have read numerous books in which true stories of actual mail order brides are related. Chris Enss covered several of particular interest in HEARTS WEST. Some stories were happy while others were tragic. Of course, those I write all have a happy ending!
The photo of our family’s experience at Mayan Dude Ranch led me to the what if several the bachelors of a small town each wound up married to a mail order bride? I invented the small town of Harrigan Springs, county seat of fictional Harrigan County. The town and county name came to me when I was humming the song from an old children’s cartoon, “H-A-double R-I GAN spells Harrigan.” I’m sure that seems odd to those who are not authors, but I’m being honest.
Once I had the location, I needed to choose the bachelors and their names and occupations. I try not to duplicate main character names. I chose Gentry, Jesse, Levi, Sidney, Keith, Isaac, and Edmund. After I released Gentry, so many readers wanted a story about Gentry’s younger brother, Quinn, that I added him to the series and wrote his book as book 3 in the series. Then, I had to assign each hero a profession.
Next, is the heroines. Each heroine must present a challenge to the hero. At the same time, she must be different than those I’ve chosen for other stories. I outlined the series and came up with a list of heroines I felt would work. Since only three of the books have been released, I suppose we’ll see how readers like them. Heidi Roth from Bavaria marries rancher Gentry McRae, Rosalin from Washington D.C. marries Sheriff Jesse Cameron, and Priscilla Bradford from Boston marries rancher/gambler Quinn McRae. Next will be Maeve Kelly from Ireland via New York, who marries blacksmith and entrepreneur Levi Iverson. That book will be released at the end of March.
I hope you are reading the Texas Hill Country Mail Order Bride Series. If not, you can find them and my other books at my Amazon Author Page https://amazon.com/Caroline-Clemmons/e/B001K8CXZ6/ Each is available in e-book, print, and is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Keep reading and stay safe!
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Deaf Row by Ron Franscell
by Ron Franscell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction
from a big-city homicide beat to a small Colorado mountain town,
ex-detective Woodrow "Mountain" Bell yearns only to fade
away. He's failed in so many ways as a father, a husband, friend, and
cop that it might be too late for a meaningful life. When he stumbles
across a long-forgotten, unsolved child murder, his first impulse is
to let it lie ... but he can't. He's drawn into the macabre mystery
when he realizes the killer might still be near. Without help from
ambivalent local cops, Bell must overcome the obstacles of time, age,
and a lack of police resources by calling upon the unique skills of
the end-of-the-road codgers he meets for coffee every morning—a
club of old guys who call themselves Deaf Row. Soon, this
mottled crew finds itself on a collision course with a serial
|DEAF ROW is more than a tense mystery novel, more than an unnerving psychological thriller drawn from Ron Franscell's career as a bestselling true-crime writer and journalist. It is also a novel of men pushing back against time and death, trying not to disappear entirely. DEAF ROW is a moving, occasionally humorous, portrait of flawed people caught in a web of pain and regret. And although you might think you know where this ghastly case is headed, the climax will blindside you.
Amazon * Audiobook * B&N * Goodreads
A veteran journalist, Ron Franscell is the New York Times bestselling author of 18 books, including international bestsellers “The Darkest Night” and Edgar-nominated true crime “Morgue: A Life in Death.” His newest, “ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling,” was released in March by Berkley/Penguin-Random House.
His atmospheric and muscular writing—hailed by Ann Rule, Vincent Bugliosi, William Least-Heat Moon, and others—has established him as one of the most provocative American voices in narrative nonfiction.
Ron’s first book, “Angel Fire,” was a USA Today bestselling literary novel listed by the San Francisco Chronicle among the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century West. His later success grew from blending techniques of fiction-writing with his daily journalism. The result was dramatic, detailed, and utterly true storytelling.
Ron has established himself as a plucky reporter, too. As a senior writer at the Denver Post, he covered the evolution of the American West but shortly after 9/11, he was dispatched by the Post to cover the Middle East during the first months of the War on Terror. In 2004, he covered devastating Hurricane Rita from inside the storm.
His book reviews and essays have been widely published in many of America’s biggest and best newspapers, such as the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and others. He has been a guest on CNN, Fox News, NPR, the Today Show, ABC News, and he appears regularly on crime documentaries at Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, History Channel, Reelz, and A&E.
He lives in northern New Mexico.
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Monday, February 20, 2023
The Innocent for the Guilty by Sandi Rebert
When Troy Daniels and his family arrive in Spring River, Wyoming, Toby, the town's busybody is certain the young man is on the run. His suspicions are well founded: Troy is facing serious accusations from a former friend, the possible loss of someone close to his heart, and the probability of death. Lots of twists and turns in the plot and a surprise ending in this beautiful story of vengeance, love, and forgiveness set in the old American west.
1 A New Start 1891
The strain of three riders and the supplies loaded quickly in the dark of night was almost too much for the small, rickety wagon. Troy had been concerned that the noisy squeaking of the cart’s wheels as it clattered and shivered down the dusty road would draw attention when they first left Tuscon. Instead, it surprised and relieved him that no one had followed, or so it seemed. The brush tied to the back of the wagon had successfully covered their tracks, and he and his family were now safely away from Rod’s revenge.
Several years earlier, Troy had heard about Spring River from a peddler. It had been described as a “very out-of-the-way location in the middle of nowhere.” What better place for a new start? Wyoming was two states away from the territory of Arizona. Sheriff Wilson wouldn’t send anyone after them; in fact, the sheriff was the one who had told them to leave town, even helping to pack the wagon. Still, Troy worried that a report would be sent by telegraph associating him with the recent horrific event. Would the sheriff in Spring River have the authority to arrest him?
The journey had been a strange encounter with time. Though advancing one hour into the future due to the time zones used by the railroads for the past eight years, the family of three went back in time seasonally. Spring was just around the corner when they left Arizona at the beginning of February. As they proceeded farther north, winter weather caught the weary travelers in its snowy web more than once. Now that they had arrived at their destination, more than a month later, the first budding of trees was still a few weeks away.
It was a cow town, much smaller than Tucson, with a livery, saloon, and a hotel—at least the sign above the weather-worn front door stated it was a hotel. Even though it boasted two stories, Troy guessed the small wooden structure would have only a handful of rooms available. Nevertheless, it reminded him that he and his family needed a place to stay and, as his growling stomach affirmed, food to eat. The difficulty was that they had no money. He would need to find a job first. Scratching his head, Troy wondered if such a thing would be possible to find in such a two-bit town.
Farther down the main street, which, from his observation, was the only street, they passed a small post office that, according to the sign, was also the telegraph office. Next to it was a doctor’s office and a tailor shop. Troy noticed that only a few houses lined the street. He guessed most people lived on outlying ranches like the two they had passed on their way into town. A small church that he presumed doubled as a schoolhouse was at the far end.
Troy pulled on the reins, stopping the horse in front of the general store with a sign above the door that read Mom and Pop’s Mercantile. A customer was just exiting with a bundle under one arm and a baby in the other.
“There’s a notice in the window, Mama. Says, ‘Help Wanted.’ I’ll go in and see if I can get me a job.”
“Are you sure we’re far enough away?” Mary’s voice was quivery, as it always got when she was nervous.
“I think so. We need the money. Even if I can work for just a few days or so, it’ll help us fill our stomachs. We can’t go on without eating.” He flashed one of his big grins that always melted her heart. “Pray for me, Mama.”
“I will, son. God has promised to meet our needs.”
Troy clambered out of the wagon, tipped his hat to a young woman passing by, then tied the horse to the hitching post. Glancing around to be certain they hadn’t been followed, the sound of creaky hinges caught his attention. Looking to his left, he couldn’t help but see the sign waving in the rustling breeze from the building three doors down. The letters stood out to him as if they were a mile wide—Sheriff’s Office.
A sudden tenseness arose in his throat. The gnawing pain in his stomach was magnified by the delicious smell of freshly baked bread wafting across the street from a homey-looking café. He brushed off his clothes even though, being covered in trail dust, it would do little to improve their condition. He knew he reeked of sweat from days of travel, but, despite his physical appearance, smell, and lack of confidence, he straightened his shoulders and opened the door.
At the counter, an attractive young lady was paying for some linen. Troy glanced down at his shabby britches and patched coat. He felt coarse and insignificant compared to her.
The shopkeeper cast a furtive glance in his direction; Troy lowered his eyes and pretended to examine a barrel of apples. The owner led his customer to the back of the store, showing her some items she’d inquired about.
Since it seemed as though the girl’s purchase would take a while, Troy took the opportunity to explore his surroundings. It was a typical mercantile with shelf after shelf of canned goods, calico, broadcloth, sewing notions, crocks, dishes, and tools. A small table of soaps and spices gave the air an aromatic fragrance despite the thick layer of dust that had settled over almost everything. A rounded showcase displayed medicines, pistols, and rifle shells. Buggy whips, harnesses, tools, and farming implements hung on the walls. Rifles were kept in a locked cabinet with a glass door. Copper pots, iron kettles, and pails dangled from the ceiling, seemingly competing for space with various sizes and shapes of lanterns. There were bins of vegetables and fruits. Stacked in the front left corner near the window were sacks of flour, sugar, and grain. Sitting on the counter beside the cash register were three big glass jars filled with penny candy, a coffee mill, scales, and brown wrapping paper. Next to the apple barrel was one containing pickles, another with crackers, and one filled to the brim with potatoes. A pot-bellied stove in the center of the store revealed what he had always heard about this area of the country—even though the summers could be exceedingly warm, spring and fall could be frosty, and winters bitterly cold. Near the stove was a rustic table and two caned chairs already set up for the next game of checkers. A staircase in the back left corner led to an upstairs door. As Troy turned around and walked to the front of the store, he noticed another door directly to the right of the counter and assumed it led to the small room that extended out to one side of the store’s front porch.
The gnawing returned, twisting like a knife inside him and melding into a queasy sensation that felt like it would rise up in his throat and choke him. He tried not to think about it, impatiently hoping the young lady would leave. At last, he heard her quiet steps, the rustle of her cotton skirt across the rough wooden floor, and the creaking and banging of the door as it opened, then shut.
Immediately, the old shopkeeper was at his side. “Somethin’ I can be helpin’ ya with, boy?” His voice conveyed suspicion.
Troy wondered if a picture of himself had circulated and the shop owner knew who he was. “I—I saw the sign in your window, sir.”
“Oh?” The man’s eyes squinted from behind small wire-rimmed glasses perched precariously on the tip of his long crooked nose.
Troy felt as though the deep brown eyes were piercing through his own. It made him feel agitated and nervous. “Yes, sir. Says you need help.”
The man rubbed his thick gray beard. “And ya figure yer the one to give it, do ya?”
“I—I need it, sir.”
“Well...” the old man snorted, scrutinizing Troy from head to foot. He caught Troy’s gaze again with a discerning stare. “From the looks of ya, I’d say ya do.” He stroked his beard again. “I—ah don’t recall seein’ ya around these here parts before.”
“You ain’t, sir. Me and my family just got into town today.”
“I see.” He patted his beard this time as if it helped him think. “Ya look mighty young to be havin’ a family,” the man continued, still eyeing Troy distrustfully.
“I’m almost nineteen, sir, but I ain’t married. I got my Mama and my sister with me.”
Troy shifted his eyes nervously to the floor. “No—no, sir.”
“How do I know I can trust ya, boy?”
Troy’s heart started racing. “I—I guess you don’t, sir. But if you’ll just give me a chance, I’ll prove it to you. I’m a hard worker, sir. I take orders real good and—and I don’t complain none either.”
“Hmph! Seems to me a boy of yer talents—if he was tellin’ the truth...“ The old man arched one bushy eyebrow as he emphasized the word. “...wouldn’t be so hard up for a job.”
Troy said nothing as the color rose to his cheeks.
“That yer family out there in yonder wagon?”
“Well. I reckon ya’d best not keep them waitin’ no longer.”
Troy’s shoulders sagged under the disappointing blow as the nagging pain in his stomach returned. Slowly, without looking at the shop owner, he shuffled toward the door.
“Hmph! Seems to me a boy what’s jest got hisself a job would be a might happier!”
“What—what did you say?”
“Ya heard me. Now, if yer aimin’ to please, go fetch that family of yers and bring ’em inside. I got a room fer my help. T’ain‘t much, but I reckon it’s a heap better than that ol’ wagon. Well, stop yer gawkin’, boy, and get on with it afore I change my mind!”
“Y—yes, sir. Yes, sir!”
Troy ran out the door to the wagon. “Mama!” he exclaimed breathlessly. “I got it! I got the job!”
“Praise the Lord!” Mary exclaimed excitedly, clasping her hands together in delight and thankfulness. Troy reached up, put his hands around his mother’s thin waist, and lifted her from the wagon.
The pile of blankets in the back jostled about until seven-year-old Angie poked her head out and peered at them through wide eyes. “Does that mean we get to eat?”
“We’ll have a roof over our heads. There’s probably a pump around here for water,” Troy informed them.
“I’m starving, Troy. Please—“ Angie piped up.
“I’ll—I’ll see what I can do, Angie. Can’t promise nothing.”
“A room! Oh, Troy, I prayed for a room.” A tear trickled down his mother’s cheek.
“Did you pray for food, Mama?” Angie asked.
“Yes, dear, I did,” Mary assured her.
“Then where is it?” Angie complained.
“Just be patient, Angie.” Troy winked at his sister as he pulled the two worn carpet bags from the wagon. “Mama’s prayers are always answered.”
“Not always, Troy,” Mary whispered to her son.
The disturbed expression on his mother’s face brought to his mind painful recollections from long ago along with fresh, haunting memories that tore at his soul. It wouldn’t be good to linger on either of them. He glanced about the street; no sign of Rod or the town’s sheriff. They were safe—for now.
The storekeeper ushered them through the door next to the counter into a small but cozy room. Mary was glad to see a window; a musty smell permeated the space, revealing it had been closed up for a while. She made a mental note to let in some fresh air as soon as the shopkeeper left them to themselves. The furnishings were simple but sufficient: a bed covered with a colorful quilt, a chest of drawers with a washbowl and pitcher, an oil lamp, a braided rug, a caned chair that matched the two in the shop, and a wood stove.
“Only got one bed,” the old man muttered apologetically as he blew the dust off the old pine dresser. “Only expected to house one person, not a whole passel.”
“It’s wonderful, mister—“
“Name’s Williams, ma’am. Jeremy Williams, but folks ’round here jest call me ‘Pop.’ Reckon ya can do the same.”
“It’s wonderful, Mr. Williams. I mean, Pop. We’re deeply grateful for the chance you’re giving Troy.”
“So that’s yer name.” Pop adjusted his glasses and peered up at the handsome young man, whose six-foot height cleared his own by five inches. Ya never did tell me.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Yes, my name’s Troy. This here’s my mother, Mary, and my sister, Angie.”
“The girl looks a little peaked.”
“She’ll be fine, sir,” Troy assured him.
“No, I won’t, Troy. I’m hungry!”
Troy gave her a sideways glance. “Angie,” he murmured under his breath.
“I can’t help it, Troy!”
“I’m sorry, sir, I—“
“Sorry? Well, no need to be. Mom—she’s my missus, she and I ain’t had supper yet. I reckon she can add a little more water to the soup.”
“Sir, I—“ “Now, son, ya said ya took orders real well.”
“Then don’t argue with me, boy. Supper will be ready in about twenty minutes. Mom and I live above the shop. Jest mosey on up the stairs in the back corner.”
“Yes, sir.” Troy extended his hand. “I’m real grateful, sir.”
The old man clasped the strong, rough hand in his feeble one. “I got a feelin’ I’m the one who should be grateful. I like yer family. Yer a brave fellow to be lookin’ after yer ma and sister, what with no pa.” Realizing his emotions were showing, a thing Jeremy always tried to conceal under a crusty façade, he quickly jerked his hand away and into his pocket. “Mind ya now, boy, I ain’t seen yet whether I can trust ya. Ya have to prove yerself.”
Troy blushed again. “I understand, sir. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
“Humph! We’ll see,” Jeremy muttered as he hobbled away. “Ya might want to wash up a mite afore yer come to dinner,” he called out to them as he started up the stairs. “Use one of them galvanized buckets from the shop. The well’s in the middle of town. Soap and towels are in the dresser.”
“Thank you, sir!” Troy called back, grinning. He knew all three of them were a sorry sight to behold.
“Maybe I’ll have time to slip into a different dress,” Mary said self-consciously.
Troy closed the door and glanced around the cramped quarters. He sighed. It was better than nothing. He couldn’t help blaming himself that they’d had to leave home so quickly; he was sure they’d never be able to return.
“Troy,” Mary slipped her hand into his. “Don’t you think we should take a moment to thank the Lord for His provision?”
“Sure, Mama, sure,” he responded.
Sandi Rebert graduated from Bob Jones University with a degree in Practical Christian Training and proficiencies in Missions and Speech. She and her pastor/husband, Brian, have served at the New Hope Baptist Church in rural Maine for over forty years.
Sandi started writing evangelistic plays for their church soon after the church’s founding in 1980. In 1999, she began her own in-house publishing ministry — Dramatic Difference Publications. As of this date, she has written over twenty Christian plays, cantatas, musicals, and programs that have been used by churches, Christian schools, and homeschooling groups across the US and in several foreign countries. When COVID hit in 2020 and the market for plays dried up, Sandi began turning her most popular dramas into novels!
In addition to writing, Sandi enjoys homeschooling three of her grandchildren, art, acting, playing various musical instruments, and teaching private music lessons. She and her husband consider themselves blessed to have three grown children and five beautiful grandchildren.