Tuesday, September 30, 2014

FINDING BALANCE: FACING THE PAST AND FINDING STRENGTH.

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky
Today is the last day of September, my turn to post here at Sweethearts of the West. I have enjoyed (as I am sure you all have) learning more about our wonderful writers here. We have world travelers, and people that have shared some wonderful memories with us, as well as some of the challenges they have faced in their lives. I admire their honesty and willingness to give us a glimpse into their private lives.

Having said that, for me to talk about myself is like facing a mountain far behind me. I did this type post once before here at Sweethearts of the West (August 30, 2011, to be exact). Back then I shared some sweet memories of my childhood in a small, quaint town in Upstate New York. But I really didn’t open up the vault, so to speak.

You see, although I have some precious memories of my childhood with my wonderful mother and siblings, there are far more dark, violent memories associated with my father that I just am not comfortable discussing. Some wounds are best kept closed. Suffice to say, if my mother was an angel; he was the devil.

There have been some close friends who know a little about my childhood, but I am still reticent to speak about it on a forum like this. Thus, out of respect to my siblings, and my firm belief that it does no good to open old scars, I still won’t discuss them in detail. What I will say about my childhood is that as dark and frightening as it often was, there was also great light and love in the presence of my mother and my faith in God.

I will tell you a secret that I’ve not told anyone but my mother long ago. When I was a little girl of six or maybe seven years old, and my father was in one of his violent moods (which always seemed directed at me), I went outside into the backyard and sat on the swing. I remember saying aloud to myself, “This isn’t real. I’m dead and just remembering, so it can’t hurt me.”

Sad, but true. Why I thought that, I do not know. Maybe even back then, I had the thought process of a writer. But I think it was just the way I was able to handle the volatile temper of my father. Then, one day after I said my little mantra, I looked up at the sky and saw a bright shaft of sunlight break through a dense, dark cloud and shine onto my face. I knew I was not alone. I knew God was there, ever near. I knew he saw everything. He heard everything. And he loved me.

Not a very cheerful start to my post, is it? Sorry, but after thinking about what to say in this post for days, I am still at a loss. All I can say is that as much as I love history, and often get lost in genealogical research and historical research, etc., there are memories you just don’t want to revisit.

Life is a journey, and not always a pleasant one. Bad things happen to good people all the time. And when I look at the world today and the chaos happening in the lives of so many people, I am far more fortunate than some have been. So, instead of posting about myself, I will post a little about what I have learned on my journey to today.

Very often we have to find our path in life on our own. We have to read the signs, heed the warnings, and pick ourselves up when we fall. We must heal our cuts and bruises, pray for strength. We must be willing to work hard at what we want to achieve and persevere, even when it seems hopeless. Most of all, keep looking up toward the sun. Don’t linger in the shadows. Don’t be afraid to dream. Believe in love. Believe in goodness. Believe in yourself. Believe there is someone out there just for you, someone waiting for you. Just BELIEVE and strive to be a good person in how you treat others.

Ironically, I have found that it is the dark times, the challenges in life, and (yes) even the painful moments that give us the greatest strength, the most capacity for compassion, and the sensitivity toward the suffering of others. I consider myself a survivor, and there are lots of us out there. People who have faced, and continue to face, daily challenges in their lives. I am lucky, blessed, in many ways. I did have a wonderful mother and a faith that sustained me. I remained true to my beliefs, my values, and 'made it through the rain'. In fact, there is a song by Barry Manilow (God Bless Him!) that when I first heard it I thought was written for me. Surely, it must have been, right? Ever since, I have claimed it as my personal anthem. It is called, “I Made It Through The Rain”. And it still strengthens me when I need a boost.

The point is I am not alone. You are not alone. People are fighting battles all around you. Someone’s child is sick. Someone’s mother just died. Someone’s husband, son, or daughter in the military has been deployed to a foreign land. Someone is struggling to pay their bills, and someone is hoping when they graduate from college they will be able to find a job. There are people suffering from depression, feeling lost and alone. People who have nothing to believe in anymore, and just want to find a reason to be happy again.

When bad things happen to you, whether in childhood or adulthood, you see things that others often overlook. And deep inside (because of your life experience) there is this determination to help bring awareness to others. Turn bad into good. Standing up for what you believe is hard. Standing up for others is even harder.

For me, I am no longer hindered to speak my mind, especially when I see someone being bullied. And I am able to address certain issues like cruelty, child abuse, and bullying, etc., in my writing. I give my characters a past, and scars they struggle to overcome in their daily lives. And I believe it is those traits, the wound they hide, or that sad vulnerability in their humanity that resonates with readers.

Bad things happen to everyone. Even if you think someone’s life is perfect, think again. We are all human, all on the same path in life – to understand ourselves, our purpose, and to face adversity, hurt, illness, or whatever obstacles life throws at us the best we can.

So, rather than go any further with this—and at the suggestion of a sweet friend named Kate Angell, I decided to answer ten questions from someone who perhaps knows me better than most –a character from one of my books. I actually put their names in a bowl and pulled out the one who would interview me. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Christiana Tatum from THE SENSE OF HONOR, my Regency period historical romance. Not sure if this will work, but let’s give it a try.

CT: “I am not at all sure how this will work either, but I now see where my guarded nature comes from. Is it as difficult for you to trust others, as it was for me in The Sense of Honor.”

AKB: “Believe it or not, there was a time I was too trusting, Christiana. I had a very na├»ve “Pollyanna” attitude that most people were honest and sincere. My mother taught me to always treat people the way I want to be treated, with kindness, honesty, and sincerity. I expected others had that same moral compass. Sadly, they don’t. Mind you, no one is perfect. We all have bad days. Life is stressful. But when you see someone malign or gossip about others repeatedly, you can be sure they will gossip about you, too. I am more observant now. I realize some people like to control or bring others down. Some people love drama in their lives, and seem to thrive on it. I no longer have tolerance or patience for people like that in my life. There are lessons in life when dealing with people we all have to learn, and trust is one of them. I believe trust must be earned, and even then, I am now watchful and wary.”

CT: “You said you give your characters a past, scars they must overcome. For me, you touched on child abuse in my relationship with Lord Bellewyck. In the Prologue, when I am looking at my reflection in the window and drawn back in memory to my childhood, it is such a powerful moment. It carries over into when I am climbing the stairs to his room. The past gave me strength to face Bellewyck. Is that how you handle memories that surface, perhaps unwanted?”

AKB: “No matter how old we get, a part of us will always be the child we once were. For me, when I think about myself as a child, so much time has passed that it is almost as if I am looking at another child. She was so sad, shy, afraid to speak up and be heard, etc. It is hard to explain. She is part of me, but not me anymore. I am very happy and blessed in my life. I am not afraid to speak up, and I draw strength from everything that happened to me. Faith is a major part of it. I think, when anything bad that happens in life, you can either let it suck you under and drown your spirit, or fight to keep your head and swim. If you can’t swim, do a back float. You cannot give in or give up. Just move forward. Believe in goodness. Believe in kindness. Believe in yourself. Push the negativity out of your life, as best you can.”

CT: “How do readers react to situations you put your characters in?”

AKB: “There are many readers who have told me how much they enjoy the books, they love the characters, the challenges they face, and their journey toward ‘happily ever after’, etc. Most readers are very polite and it can be helpful to hear their opinion about something that they dislike or don't understand, etc. I had one person who felt making a child clean chimneys wasn't a 'big deal' Clearly, she didn’t understand the historical facts regarding this type child labor, or how many children were crippled or killed because they were forced to do that work. To me, it was a very ‘big deal’, and something I wanted to address in The Sense of Honor. Still, that reader is entitled to her opinion. Reading is subjective. All I can do is try and write the best story I can, and one that will touch people in positive way."

CT: "Let’s talk about something happier, like the reissue of The Sense of Honor as a Special Edition. What makes it a Special Edition?”

AKB: “Well, the Special Edition contains new content, special editorial changes I made after learning more about the craft of writing, and illustrations -- things that I was not able to do when the book was first released. When I decided to reissue and publish the book myself, I wanted to stay true to the book and the readers who loved it, but also enhance it, too.”

CT: "How are we doing as a Special Edition?”

AKB: “I am happy to say that since its release in July the book has continuously been on Amazon’s Best-Seller List for Regency set Historical Romance in both Kindle and Books in the US and the UK. And it is also on the UK Best-Seller List for Romantic Suspense, and in the US for the overall Historical Romance category.

CT: "What are you working on now?"

AKB: "I am working on a Historical Gothic series set in Regency England and Scotland. I have had several NY publishers interested in the series, but after giving it much thought decided to publish it independently. To do that, I want to have at least two books polished and ready to release close together. The first book is done and I am halfway finished with the second book.”

CT: "What is the title?"

AKB: "The first book is titled “Between the Shadows”, and the second book is “Echoes in the Darkness.”

CT: "Where are you in your next western writing?"

AKB: "Spirit of the Wind, the second book in the Windswept Texas Trilogy, is still in the writing stage. I had to put it on the back burner. The Patience Sinclair series is set in the Regency period, and I really want to finish two or three books in that series for release back-to-back. So, I am focusing my writing and research time on that series. Spirit of the Wind is set in the late 19th century, and has been a challenge for me because the story is very different from Whisper in the Wind. It is finished, but I am not happy with it just yet. It has the time travel element, but from a different angle that I think readers will find exciting and intriguing. And it is darker, more serious in content. There was a lot of humor in Molly and Jordan’s story—mostly due to Molly’s personality and her chemistry with Jordan Blake. However, Ethan Blake’s story in Spirit of the Wind is darker. I need to find a way to lighten it up.

CT: "Are there any plans to return to the characters in The Sense of Honor?"

AKB: "Funny you should ask, Christiana. Yes, I will be returning to Regency England and the much loved characters in The Sense of Honor. Linked novels are plotted for Devlin’s handsome and roguish friends: Mr. Howard Mitchell, Mr. Walter Duncan, Viscount Lyndon, and Michael Stevenson, Earl of Wessex."

CT: "My 10th question is at hand. You write historical fiction, primarily in Regency England and the American West of the 19th century. What is it about those two periods that attracts you?"

AKB: "Well, I am personally more drawn to Scotland and England – especially the Georgian and Regency periods. But the American West is part of my heritage. My mom’s grandparents came to Texas in covered wagons after the Civil War. However, I have also just learned my 4x great grandfather came to Texas in the early 1850s. Having said that, I started writing western fiction because of my older sister, Karen. She LOVED westerns, and asked me to please write a western romance. Not just that but she wanted all the things she loved incorporated into that romance. Hence, Whisper in the Wind has a wagon load of things that happen to Molly and Jordan because of Karen, who passed away in 2005. Someday, I will give a funny insight into those elements, like the ode to Doris Day and Rock Hudson, but that’s for another time.

CT:"Thank you for the opportunity to converse with you today, Ashley. Anything more you would like to say?"

AKB: "Only that for anyone who made it this far through the post, thank you. I hope you didn’t find me too boring’. Far more exciting things happen in my books. In fact, I will be giving away a signed copy of ‘The Sense of Honor - Special Edition’ to someone who posts a comment. Or, if you prefer, a Kindle version of the book.

Oh, and for anyone else out there who ‘made it through the rain’ in their lives, watch the video below. You will perhaps understand why this song means so much to me, and has for years. See you all the end of October! ~ AKB



www.ashleykathbilsky.com

Sunday, September 28, 2014

EVERYTHING (ALMOST) YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT CHERYL PIERSON by Cheryl Pierson



Hi everyone,

Well, here’s a bit about me. I’m from Oklahoma, born and raised here. My parents and two “much older” sisters and I lived in Duncan, where I was born, until the summer I turned 6—that was 1963. That summer, my dad, who worked in the oilfields as a chemical engineer, was transferred to Seminole. My oldest sister, Annette, had managed to graduate from Duncan High School, but my middle sister, Karen, was going to have to do her last two years in Seminole.

We were pretty much the typical family, like the Cleavers, only Mom didn’t vacuum in high heels and pearls like June did. She kept busy with my sister Karen’s activities, and I started first grade that year at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, just a three-block hike from my front door.

THIS IS ME AT AGE 3--TAKEN FROM A LARGER PICTURE OF THE FAMILY TOGETHER. MY DAD LOVED TO EXPERIMENT WITH PHOTOGRAHY


I was lucky to have a stay-at-home mom, who loved to bake and cook things from scratch. Being a child of the Dustbowl and the Great Depression, it was the only way she knew to cook. A wonderful seamstress, she made a lot of our clothes, including my first prom dress!

Talk about an idyllic childhood. It was small-town America. The “neighborhood gang” rode our bicycles all over that part of town with no restraint, other than most of us were not to go past the main busy street, Strothers. However, there were plenty of other places to ride and we explored every inch of them. My best early childhood friend, Jane, moved in the same week I did, and she was only one year older than I. We grew to be as close as any sisters, and I was heartbroken when her father was transferred a few years later. I took dance lessons and played the flute in band. I was a classically trained pianist, and though I hated the hours of practice, if my mom was still here today, I would tell her what she always said I would—“THANK YOU.”

MY BEST FRIEND, JANE, AND ME IN MY SANDBOX. JANE PASSED AWAY LAST YEAR OF CANCER. I WILL MISS HER FOREVER.


Going to the library was an every-Saturday affair. When Mom went to get her hair done, she dropped me off at the library. Goldie Barnett was the old maid librarian. Books were her life. She had a humped back and the sweetest, gentlest smile that you ever saw. She knew every book on the shelves, and loved to see young people come in and choose “no more than seven” to take home with them.

In the summers, we ran wild, playing sandlot baseball, riding bikes, climbing trees (yes, I was a bit of a tomboy!) and lying on an old packing quilt in the shade with a pitcher of cold lemonade and a favorite book for hours on end. We made frequent trips to Durant, in the southeastern corner of the state, where both my parents were from and where we still had many, many relatives on both sides. My dad’s parents had a huge garden that we would go down and help harvest. This was where I learned the fine art of shucking corn, picking beans and okra, and canning tomatoes.

MY MOM AND DAD AS NEWLYWEDS IN 1944



When I finished my junior year in high school, my dad was transferred again—this time, to Charleston, West Virginia. I was told time and again how lucky I was to have been able to stay in school in one place all those years. I didn’t feel so lucky, though, to have to leave everyone I knew, and all that was familiar. I finished high school in Winfield, a small suburb of Charleston, and started college nearby. Turned out, the move was “in the cards” because I met my husband, Gary, there at college.

HERE I AM AS A JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. MY MOM MADE THIS DRESS FOR ME--SHE WAS A WONDERFUL SEAMSTRESS!



Gary and I were married in 1979, and here we are nearly 36 years later—still together. Only because we never owned a gun, I’m sure. (Just kidding, really!)

Gary had been married before and had two children from his first marriage, Jennifer and Russell, who came to live with us in 1982. It was really a saving grace, because this was a very hectic time, and a time filled with upheaval, as Russell’s mom insisted on taking him back to live with her, leaving Jennifer with us. Time flew, and in 1986, our first child, Jessica, was born. I had started to write by then, but only at night when everyone else was in bed. In 1989, our son, Casey, came along, and by then Jennifer was a senior and ready to graduate.

These are my "babies" now--just before their birthdays this year (both in September).



We moved into Oklahoma City from one of the outlying suburbs and bought the home we still live in today. For many years, my life was full with taking the kids to their sporting events, play practices, and school activities. I worked part time during those years, and taught piano and guitar for many years, as well. Jessica, Casey and Jennifer all live nearby. Sadly, we lost Russell in a car accident when he was 18.

I’ve loved to write my entire life. I remember as a child, my mother would take little notepads to church with her in her purse for me to “occupy myself” with. In elementary school, I wrote poems, short stories and even a play that my 4th grade teacher let us practice and perform in class. My writing career took off a few years ago when I sold a short story to Adams Media for their Rocking Chair Reader collection. I sold several more to them, sold some newspaper articles, and then sold my first novel, FIRE EYES, a western historical, to The Wild Rose Press. I had a wonderful editor there, Helen Andrew, who really helped me find my way with the book, and will be forever grateful to her. It is now re-released through Prairie Rose Publications, along with most of my other works.



Last year (2013), a good friend, Livia Reasoner, and I teamed up to open a publishing house, PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS. In one year’s time, we’ve expanded with a total of five imprints: Prairie Rose Publications, Fire Star Press, Painted Pony Books, Prayers and Promises, and Tornado Alley Publications. We’ve enjoyed publishing many seasoned authors as well as several very talented new authors, as well—and publish a large variety of stories and formats, from anthologies to single-sell short stories, and novels, of course.





I also continue to write westerns for the Western Trail Blazer’s anthologies and shared world novels about the fictional town of Wolf Creek, Kansas. These are some wonderful tales of the old west, and it’s a lot of fun to work with other authors on a common project.

WOLF CREEK BOOK 1: BLOODY TRAIL--THIS STARTED IT ALL!


This is my granddog, Embry, who has lived with us not for the last 4 years or so. Jessica rescued him from a shelter, then had to sell her house and move into an apartment. So you can see, with his size, he would not have been happy there. He came to live with "Grandma and Grandpa" and is the king of the house here. Remember the old joke, "Where does an 800 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to..." That's true in our house, too--Embry weighs in at 200 pounds!


Here's the blurb and excerpt from my latest short story, SPELLBOUND, that appears in PRP's COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO VOL. 2 which will be available for presale this week, along with Volume 1!



BLURB:
Angie Colton and her young sister, Earlene, leave their circus life behind when their mother is killed and their father fears for their safety. Now, living in their hideaway is their only chance to keep Angie from the clutches of the evil man who may have murdered her mother. But Angie has a desperate secret she hides—she and Earlene are both witches, and are just coming into their own.

Brett Diamond must save his brother, Jake, from a ruthless killer. Teller Magdon is determined to force Brett to rob a bank in order to keep Jake alive. But on his way to Ft. Smith, Brett is wounded by an unknown assailant, and taken in by a beautiful angel and her hellcat younger sister. With no time to spare, Brett must confide in Angie about his mission—and Angie must decide how she can help him, yet protect herself from the evil that has managed to find her through an ironic twist.

There’s only one thing for certain: their chance encounter is a work of Fate and love. No matter what happens next, they’ve both been left Spellbound!


EXCERPT:
Her kiss was tentative, sweet, and yearning. Brett let his breath fill his lungs slowly. Her hand caressed his cheek. He raised his right arm and threaded his fingers through her shimmering mass of golden curls, remembering how her head had felt, resting on his shoulder, and the thoughts he’d had as she had snuggled her body close in to his.

She lifted her mouth from his and he gave her a slow smile. “You tryin’ to bewitch me, Angie…or are you just practicin’ your kissin’ on me?”

She smiled back, letting a finger toy with his hair. “Maybe it’s a little of both…I do need to practice…as you said.” Her smile faded, and she met his eyes. “But I do wish it was in my power to bewitch you completely, Brett Diamond.” Her teeth caught in her lower lip as if to keep the rest of what she wanted to say inside.

Heat rushed through Brett’s body at her softly-spoken admission. He pulled her to him, a low groan escaping his chest as her lips met his one more.

“Angie,” he whispered, her name like a prayer in his heart.

She pulled away reluctantly, and Brett cursed himself for scaring her with his aggression. He was taken off guard when she spoke.

“There’s things about me you—you don’t know. And you don’t ever want to find out, Brett.”
“What’re you talkin’ about, Ang?”

She shook her head. “There’s other reasons why Papa wanted us to leave the circus and live out here away from people.” She gave a short laugh. “I guess—maybe he thought he’d keep me and Earlie safe, but…he wanted to keep other people safe, too. From us.”

Uneasiness settled over Brett. He didn’t want to hear any more. He wanted to hold on to his newfound dreams of what life might be like if he settled down with Angie Colton…and he had a feeling she was about to shatter all his illusions.

“You asked if I was tryin’ to bewitch you, Brett. Truth is, I—could, if I wanted to.”
Brett laughed outright at that bold statement. Angie was overcom-ing her uncertainty in leaps and bounds, for sure.

“Why’s that, Ang? You a witch or somethin? The real deal?”

She gave him a long look, remaining silent. The tension in the room stretched between them until Brett felt the air would shatter around them.

“Yes, Brett. That’s what I am. The real deal.”


That’s my life in a nutshell. Not too greatly exciting, just a life mixed with some trials, tribulations, and wonderful happiness. I hope you haven’t been bored—I loved getting to read all about you all and getting to know you better.
Hugs to all my SWEETHEART sisters!
Cheryl

Friday, September 26, 2014

WHERE'S MY SILVER SPOON?


I’ve led an interesting life—or so it seems to me—but if I ever come upon the woman born with the silver spoon in her mouth that should have been in mine, I’m getting that spoon back!

My parents on their wedding day.
No, I don't understand  the the pose either.
My dad was a widower with four kids when he and my mom married. Mom was 23 years younger than Dad and two years younger than her eldest stepson. Yes, we’re an odd family (in so many ways). They lived in a frame house in Dodson, Texas, which went from a thriving community to almost a ghost town once the new highway bypassed Dodson. My dad managed the cotton gin there.

My folks and youngest half-brother, Herschel,
in California several years before I was born
When I was about ten months old, my parents moved to Southern California. My four half-siblings had moved there earlier. We settled in Oildale, a suburb of Bakersfield. My dad worked first as a carpenter and then as a building contractor. The next house he built was always going to be for us, but the housing shortage always won and—after hasty discussion—he and my mom couldn’t turn down the profit of a sale.

One of my favorite photos of my parents and me
In the meantime, I had gone from healthy baby to puny toddler and child. In addition to asthma and allergies, I contracted San Joaquin Fever and it settled in my lungs. Eventually, doctors told my folks we had to leave the valley or I’d die. I was so ill that I don’t remember the move.

I do remember making up adventure stories (starring me, of course) while having to rest and whenever I was sick. My dad taught me to read early as he placed a high value on education.  Mostly I had comic books with only a few books such as HEIDI, A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Little Golden book of A CHILD’S LITTLE BOOK OF PRAYERS.


To improve my health, we moved to West Texas where my dad again managed a cotton gin. After three years in small communities, Dad decided to buy cotton and we finally were able to have our own home in Lubbock. By this time, my younger brother had been born and was four month old. Poor Dad. Imagine having babies spread over a forty-year span. No, thanks! Poor Mom. She was quite surprised to find herself expecting a second child ten years after the first.

Fifth grade
In the meantime, I had discovered there was more to life than Roy Rogers (sorry, Roy) and had gone on to read any book I could get my hands on, mostly Nancy Drew titles. I waffled between wanting to be a girl detective a la Nancy Drew or a famous writer like Carolyn Keene. Well, I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer—I had no idea there was no Carolyn Keene.

In Lubbock, I sort of enjoyed school, especially English and reading and history classes. Fie on math and PE! With my dad’s encouragement, I signed up for journalism and eventually became editor of the school paper and won some awards. Turns out the reason Dad wanted to live in Lubbock was so that my brother and I could live at home and go to Texas Tech. I started but only have my associate degree, which was a big disappointment to my dad.

Mom with my brother Donald

Blah, blah, blah, fast forward a few years. I was lucky enough to marry my Hero, the older brother of a classmate. We lived in the Dallas area and each of our daughters was born there. We moved a lot, sometimes for stupid reasons such as we wanted a larger yard or a smaller yard or closer to a park.

Once we moved to Cupertino, California, so Hero could get out of defense work. The company there then used his name to secure a defense contract. We might have stayed there but our eldest daughter developed a dislocated hip and had to have surgery and be in a body cast for nine months. Being young, we blamed California and wanted to come “home.”

Another time, Hero was wooed by a company in Orlando, Florida, but we concluded after two-and-a-half years there that we’re Texans at heart and returned. Although I’d been a stay-at-home mom until we moved to Florida, while there I was a feature columnist and reporter for a small newspaper. I enjoyed the job, but didn’t make much money—but I met tons of interesting people. The good thing was that the owner-editor who recruited me allowed me to work around my asthmatic kids’ sick days and school hours.

Our daughters

We moved back to Texas and I went back to being stay-at-home mom. That is, until our eldest daughter chose to go to Texas Christian University. Tuition sticker shock! I went to work for an emeritus professor who was managing editor of a psychology journal. By this time we’d purchased an orchard in Parker County and planned to build there. About a year after we’d moved, I went to work for the local tax assessor collector as bookkeeper. Yes, I remember I said I didn’t like math, but I meant advanced math. There’s something soothing in the fact that two plus two is always four.

For several years I’d been writing a romance. I finished that one and started another. By this time I’d heard about Romance Writers of America and joined the national organization and a local chapter, then a second local chapter. Wow, what a shock to hear interesting programs on character arc, plotting, character development, point of view, and more. There are rules? Who knew?

Through friends I met in the local RWA chapter, I made my first sale to Kensington in 1998. I was not that happy with the severely cut version of BE MY GUEST, but when rights reverted to me, I revised the book to include the suspense portion that had been chopped out and removed a couple of trite phrases that had been inserted. I published two more books and a novella with that publisher.


Now I’ve a total of eighteen books published, several box sets, and two audio books. My latest effort is a companion duet box set with Jacquie Rogers titled MAIL-ORDER TANGLE. The first in the duet is mine, MAIL-ORDER PROMISE, about Kage Johanssen and Ellie Dickerson. The second, MAIL-ORDER RUCKUS by Jacquie, is about Matt Johanssen and Laura Dickerson. The two heroes are cousins and the two heroines are sisters. http://amzn.com/B00MZ6ZRXC
In a few weeks, the boxed set  WILD WESTERN WOMEN will release and includes novellas by Callie Hutton, Kirsten Osbourne, Sylvia McDaniel, Merry Farmer, and me as well as bonus short stories by a couple of us.  


Later this fall, my Christmas novella titled STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS will be released. Unless I start writing faster while laid up after extensive ankle reconstruction, WINTER BRIDE won’t be published this year as scheduled. (Writing with the keyboard balanced on my stomach is not as easy or as productive as I’d hoped.)

Hero and me on the ferry
from England to Ireland

A year ago, Hero and I downsized to a home in Hurst, Texas near my best friends. We love living here and feel fortunate that our daughters are not far away in Fort Worth and Greenville. Our home is shared by our rescue pets of a Shih Tzu dog Webster, large tuxedo cat Sebastian, and Max, a Manx-Siamese mix cat. Although my mom didn’t like to read until she was retired and my aunt gave her a copy of THE THORN BIRDS, she became an avid reader and my devoted fan, My parents have both passed on, but I know they’d be happy I’ve continued writing. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

About Me by Lauri Robinson




Hello! It’s my turn to tell you a bit more about myself, which, for many authors, is their least favorite thing to write about. Creating others is so much more exciting. So, here it goes…

My parents, (in this precious little photo), lived in a small town called Embarrass, Minnesota when I was born. I was the seventh of eight children and the second of two daughters. Yes, having six brothers was an eventful life. We moved to Kansas when I was ten and that’s where I met and married my hubby. That was also where I fell in love with cowboys of all kinds—not just Little Joe Cartwright, who by the way was my first boyfriend, he just never knew it. 

My husband and I migrated back to Minnesota after my parents had. We came to visit them for Christmas and never left. My husband fell in love with all the hunting and fishing. Our three boys were raised in Minnesota and two of them are married and now raising their families here in Minnesota. This is my husband and our four grandchildren. 

With a degree in early childhood education, I taught preschool for many years before becoming the director of a child abuse and neglect prevention program. It was during that time that I started writing. My husband likes to take credit for that. We were up north at the ‘hunting shack’. No, I’m not a hunter, although I do own several guns and have a conceal and carry permit, but that another story. I went to the hunting shack back then to make sure the boys ate more than beef jerky and potato chips for a week. My husband wanted me to go sit in the deer stand with him. I told him that I couldn’t because I had a good book I wanted to finish. Somewhat sarcastically, he said I should write a book because I’d read so many of them—which was true, I’ve always been, and still am, an avid reader. I told him that I would write one—and started it that very weekend. It took five years to get it published, and it is now off the market. Thank goodness! I’ve learned so much since then!

During those five years, I switched to a job where I worked part-time in order to help take care of my father, by then he was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. He was a wonderful man and a great story teller. While taking care of him he shared many memories with me that I used in writing “A Wife for Big John” set in a lumber camp in the late 1800’s. This is me and my dad. He died a week before I ‘sold’ that book. 

I continued to write and sold several more books to the Wild Rose Press before selling my first one to Harlequin in 2009. In 2011 we discovered my mother had cancer and I left my job to be able to accompany her for chemo treatments. She is who I got my love of reading from and was my first beta reader. She was also my biggest fan and my toughest critic. I loved brainstorming stories with her. Six short months later she passed away. Here’s my mom and two of my grandchildren.

I now work part-time for a senior care company and dedicate my other days to writing. My favorite genre to write and read is western historicals, but last year when my Harlequin editor asked what other era I’d like to write about, I quickly answered the roaring twenties. I’m excited to say that four books based in that era will be released in 2015. This year when she asked if I had another era I’d like to try writing about, I explained how my eight times great grandmother had been imprisoned as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. She told me to write up a proposal and send it in. It was accepted and that is the book—a romance novel set during that time—I’m currently working on.

The one last thing I need to mention is our granddog Bear. Our youngest son ‘moved back home’ last year
with his dog. We love having them live here (he works construction and is out of town a lot) but I know a twenty-something son doesn’t want to live with his parents forever. I tell him he can move out at any time, but the dog stays. This is Bear on his birthday this July. We gave him one hundred tennis balls at once. He was in his glory!

There you have it. Lauri Robinson in a nutshell. The only two things I may have forgotten to mention are that I’m a huge Elvis fan. Our guest bedroom is known as Heartbreak Hotel. And I love watching Nascar—either live or on T.V.

My soon to be released book, The Wrong Cowboy, has been given four stars and the K.I.S.S. (Knight In Shining Silver) hero award from R.T. Reviews.   

Thanks for reading a bit more about me today. If you’d like to, I’d be honored to connect with you elsewhere:


Monday, September 22, 2014

A German Girl Writes Historical Western Romance


By: Peggy L Henderson


This month, we’re supposed to talk about ourselves. This is probably my least favorite thing to do, but I’ll give it a try. At least it’s in a blog post and not in front of a live audience. I’ve been painfully shy all my life, and after my first child was born, along with post partum depression, was also diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, and years later with Panic Attacks. I hated what the medication the doctors prescribed did to me, so I don’t take them. I just live with my fear of social situations as best as I can. My husband tries to be supportive, but as an extremely outgoing person, it’s often very difficult for him to understand why I’d rather stay home than mingle with family and friends.

I was born and raised in Germany for the first twelve years of my life. My mother is German and my dad was Canadian, working for an American company in Germany. I knew a little English when my dad decided to relocate to the U.S., but boy, was it a cultural shock to me! Growing up in a small farming town in Germany, moving to the big city just outside of Los Angeles, California, was quite the move. My mother didn’t adjust very well to the move, and spent many years in bouts of depression. Like me, my dad was an introvert, so I didn’t get much help from him, either, as I tried to navigate the new and completely different school system from what I was accustomed to.
I've been drawn to Cowboys and Indians from a very young age

I met my future husband when I was 15 years old, working at the “ground level” – literally – at a large veterinary clinic, cleaning kennels. I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I worked my way up from kennel attendant to veterinary assistant to surgical assistant while in high school and throughout college, sometimes working at three different clinics while going to school full time. I think that’s why I finally burned out on vet school during my senior year at college. It’s also when I got married, and veterinary school seemed less important. My husband and I bought a house, and I was finally able to make another life-long dream a reality; keep horses on my own property.

All my life, I loved horses, and begged my parents for a horse of my own. Neither one of them would budge. They wouldn’t even let me take riding lessons. With the money I earned from after-school jobs in high school, I bought my first horse and paid for his upkeep at the local boarding stable. A few years later, I bought a second horse, and started showing. I fell in love with dressage, and that’s the discipline I pursued with my second, and then with my third horse.   


When my sons were born, a year apart from each other, I stopped working to become a stay-at-home mom. In the back of my mind, I know I kept wondering when my "vacation" would be over, but I stayed home to raise my boys until they were ten. During those years, to relieve some of my boredom (not that being at home and raising little kids is boring, but I needed something else to do besides watching the children), I went back to school, and I also taught myself to draw and paint. This led to a part-time, at-home business of drawing and painting animal portraits.  





















Three months after my father suffered a fatal heart attack while he and my mother came for their weekly visit at my house, I had my first panic attack. I don’t know to this day whether it was brought about by my dad’s death and that I couldn’t save him, or the fact that I had suffered an inner-ear infection that, before it was diagnosed, made me think I was dying. Since then, I've struggled with panic attacks along with the ongoing depression and social anxiety.

After my dad’s passing, my husband and I made the decision to move in with my mom to help her out. She didn’t want to move to our house, and she couldn’t live on her own due to advancing rheumatoid arthritis. So, we packed up, moved the horses and kids, and into the house in which I spent my teenage years. It was during that time that I also decided I wanted to return to work. Boarding horses rather than having them in the backyard was going to be more expensive. I met my future boss at the boarding stable where I moved my horses, and have been working the graveyard shift as a laboratory technologist at a leading veterinary reference lab ever since.

So, what led me to become a writer? I always enjoyed writing, and even wrote a “novel” when I was 14 years old, about a racehorse that came from outer space, and I always enjoyed reading romance novels.

When my husband and I graduated from high school, we went on a camping trip together to Yellowstone National Park. I absolutely fell in love with the place. We’ve been back almost every year since then. One summer, my husband was committed to taking a group of boy scouts camping in the high Sierras, and couldn’t go on the Yellowstone trip, so I asked my boss if she’d like to go on a “girls only” trip with me. It was one of those life-changing adventures for me, because I proved to myself that I “could do this.”

It was also on the drive home (covering over 1000 miles) that my mind had time to wander, and the story that would become my first novel, Yellowstone Heart Song, was born in my head. I don’t know where the story came from. It just formed in my mind, and it wouldn’t leave me alone for over a year. After another trip to Yellowstone with my husband and kids, the story became even more vivid, and the day after we got home, I started writing. I spent a year or more writing the book, not telling anyone, and I had no plans to publish it. I entered a few RWA chapter writing contests, and finaled in one, after which I found a critique partner through an online search. She helped me with beginner writer mistakes (head-hopping, anyone?) and with so much more, and finally urged me to publish. I decided to go the independent route because I was afraid that a publisher (if my story was even accepted anywhere) would make me change it so much that it would no longer by my story.

My lone story, which I titled Yellowstone Heart Song after I couldn’t come up with a title for over a year, turned into the Yellowstone Romance Series - 5 full-length novels and two novellas to date, consistent best-sellers in the time travel and western historical romance genre.

I did everything wrong when I published Yellowstone Heart Song, but I’ve learned a lot in the last three years. I now have a wonderful editor and beta reader support team, and I’ve since written another trilogy, the Teton Romance Trilogy, and I am currently finalizing the third book in my Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series. I continue to work nights while pursuing my writing career during the day.



Blurb and Excerpt from Come Home to Me (Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, Book 1)

Jake Owens is tired of life on his parents' Montana ranch, catering to city folk who want a taste of old-fashioned country living. He enjoys life in the fast lane, with fast cars and even faster women. When he falls in with the wrong crowd and is accused of murder, a stranger's bizarre offer at a second chance might be his only hope to clear his name.

Rachel Parker is highly devoted to her family. A tragedy prompts a daring move to the Oregon Territory for a fresh start in a new land. After meeting the wagon train's scout, the meaning of a fresh start may be more than she ever imagined.

Jake can't believe he's been sent back in time to act as scout for a wagon train headed for Oregon, and given the added burden of keeping one emigrant woman safe during the journey. He and Rachel are confused by their attraction to each other. Jake's ill-mannered, unconventional ways are overshadowed only by his notorious reputation. Rachel's traditional values and quiet, responsible character are the complete opposite of what attracts Jake to a woman. When their forbidden attraction turns to love, what will happen at the end of the trail?

Excerpt:

Jake swiped the back of his hand across his forehead, but droplets of sweat still managed to sting his eyes. He blinked to dispel the burn, then dumped the last shovel full of dirt onto the mound of freshly dug earth. He stuck the simple wooden cross he’d fashioned from two sticks he’d tied together with twine into the ground, and peered over his shoulder. Rachel stood quietly behind him, her hands clasped tightly in front of her, her solemn eyes on the grave. She’d barely spoken a word since yesterday afternoon, after Thomas had breathed his last breath.
Jake’s heart went out to her. From the moment he’d seen Thomas sick that morning, he’d known that it didn’t look good for Rachel’s brother. He’d already vomited so much by the time Rachel had found him, his body had been dehydrated beyond recovery without intravenous fluids.  The little bit of water he’d managed to keep down hadn’t been enough.
Rachel’s stoic behavior in the wake of her brother’s death unnerved him. She hadn’t cried. She’d walked away from the dead body, and gone about fixing a supper of rice, beans, biscuits, and leftover buffalo meat. When she’d barely touched her food, Jake had set his own plate aside, and tried to pull her into his arms. She’d pushed him away, and disappeared in the wagon for the rest of the night.
Jake decided to leave her alone with her grief. It had to be quite a shock to her. She was suddenly all alone on a trek across the country to a foreign land. What must be going through her mind? She had three little kids to worry about now, and no man to take care of her.
This journey might test her like nothing before. Reverend Johnson’s words haunted him now. The old man hadn’t been kidding. Jake wondered again how much the reverend knew. Had he foreseen Thomas’ death? That’s why the reverend gave her to you to protect.  If he’d known all that, he would have also known that Jake would fall in love with her.
How would Rachel react if he told her he was from the future? He couldn’t possibly say anything to her yet. Shortly before Thomas’ death, he’d almost asked her to come with him to Montana. She needed time to mourn her brother before he even thought to bring it up.
Jake gripped the shovel, and turned to face Rachel. He touched his hand to her shoulder and stepped closer. Her head snapped up; her eyes wide and shimmering. A slight breeze lifted strands of her hair that had come loose of its braid, and blew into her face. Jake wiped at her cheek and tucked the tendrils behind her ear.
“Would you like to say something?” he asked gently.
Rachel’s unfocused gaze darted from him to the grave, and back again. Her body shivered slightly. Her eyes suddenly filled with the tears she’d suppressed since yesterday. Jake expelled his breath, and pulled her into his arms. For a second, he thought she might object, but then her body went limp. She wrapped her arms around his middle, and buried her face in his shirt. Sobbing quietly, her body shook and quivered, and Jake held her in a tight embrace. He stroked the back of her head, and ran his hand up and down her back.
“Let it out, sweetheart. It’s okay to cry,” he whispered.
“He was all I had,” she rasped into his shirt. “All that was left of my family.”
Jake lifted her head from his chest. Her eyes glistened, and tears streamed down her face. “You still have the boys,” he offered, knowing it was probably not what she needed to hear. And you have me, he desperately wanted to add. This was not the time to bring it up. He still hadn’t worked it out in his own mind what to do about her once he reached the end of the trail in Oregon.
Rachel nodded slowly. “How am I going to tell them their papa is gone?”
Jake held her face between his hands, and swiped at her tears with his thumbs. “We’ll figure it out.” He eased her head against his chest, and simply held her. Consoling a grief-stricken woman was unfamiliar territory.
It would be so easy to tell her right now that he wanted her to come to Montana with him. But that meant he also had to tell her he was from the future. He couldn’t possibly drop such a bomb on her. Not yet, anyway. He could simply tell her he’d stay with her in Oregon, but he didn’t want to lie to her. One way or another, he’d figure out a way to keep her, whether in this time or in the twenty-first century.  Would she even want to stay with him? She obviously had feelings for him, but did she love him?
Thomas had told him she had no experience with men, and thought she was simply infatuated with him. She herself had told him she’d surrendered to him, that she was tired of running from his pursuit of her. Jake’s jaw clenched, and he cursed silently.  He didn’t want her surrender. He wanted her love. The innocent ways she’d kissed him told him she was unsure of herself. He had to tread lightly, and go slow.
The late afternoon breeze whooshed gently around them, cooling Jake’s face. Crickets and other evening bugs grew louder amongst the sage and grasses. Coyotes yipped in the far-off distance, and one of the mules brayed along the river. Jake’s mare pinned her ears at the annoying beast, and lumbered away towards the banks of the Platte, sticking her nose in the water for a drink. She swooshed her tail in an agitated manner, evening bugs swarming around her rump.
How long he stood there in the open, flat expanse of the Nebraska prairie, holding Rachel in his arms, Jake had no idea. The evening sun slowly sank in the western horizon, painting the sky different shades of orange, red, and purple.  She’d stopped sobbing some time ago, and her body had stilled as if she’d fallen asleep. He eased his upper body away from her, and she moaned softly.
“Don’t let go of me.” Her soft request was almost inaudible. Jake’s heart ignited in his chest.  I’ll never let you go.

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.