Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE "LOOK" CHALLENGE by Cheryl Pierson

“Look” is one of those words for which writers are always on the lookout. Like other words related to the senses, “look” can distance readers from the point-of-view character’s experience, so we try to use it with caution. The Look Challenge is a game writers play to remind us to keep an eye out for the overused word and replace it with something more evocative when appropriate. The rules of the Look Challenge require us to find the first occurrence of “look” in one of our works in progress, and then post that sentence and the surrounding paragraph(s).

The Look Challenge is only a beginning for us to try to find our overused words as

writers—and kind of a fun game to play. I have to say, it is a word I have to be careful of in my writing because I do tend to use a lot of facial expressions when I describe my characters, and for me, the characters’ eyes are so important! You can also use this challenge for other sensory words (heard, felt, etc.) that "distance" the reader from the character.

Just for fun, I’ve gone back into some of my current soon-to-be released galleys and WIP manuscripts and checked for the first showing of the word “look”, or any of its variations. I’ll share some of those with you now, and writers, please feel free to do the same in your comments! I’m always curious about how others are doing with these same issues we all have and how they “fix” them!

Here’s mine from Gabriel’s Law, one of my western historical WIPs that placed third in the SARA MERRITT contest a couple of years ago. Half-breed gunfighter Brandon Gabriel is being attacked by the men of the town who hired him to get rid of a gang. Now that the gang is gone, they don’t want to pay him. This is the first occurrence of “LOOK” and I was pretty proud that it didn’t show up until page 3-4.

He shook away the memory as the whip found its mark again, this time across his neck and shoulders. Smith roared in pain as the backlash caught him on the cheek. But Brandon made no sound. His harsh training had been equal in both worlds, Comanche and Anglo. He clenched his teeth and bit back his groan of pain.

They converged on him, and he was almost thankful. At least, they were finished with the whip. Now, it would only be a matter of time. Still, he fought as they tried to grasp his arms. They struggled for several minutes before subduing him, four of them holding his arms pinned behind his back, forcing him to stand.

Arnold Smith’s florid features swam into his view, redder than usual...he was looking at him through a haze of his own blood.

“You understand, don’t you, Gabriel?” Smith asked. “It’s just business.”

This snippet is from my upcoming October 2012 release, TEMPTATION’S TOUCH. It’s a contemporary romantic suspense. Recently divorced Kendi Morgan rushes out in the darkness to give some high school kids who constantly party on her land a piece of her mind. Only, instead of the teenagers, she finds that she has instead come upon two men murdering a third. In horrified silence, she watches, unable to do anything about what she sees…until the killers drive away and she realizes that the victim may not be dead after all. This didn’t show up until page 7! Doing better!

For an instant, she hesitated about shining the light higher, onto his face. If the murderer had shot him in the head, she wasn’t sure she could look at that. But she had to know if he was dead.

“What else could he be, Kendi?” she whispered to the wind.

Her lips compressed tightly. She took another hesitant step forward, shivering from cold and nerves.

Lightning flared, followed by a roar of thunder, and Kendi flinched. In the sudden brightness, she thought she had seen the man move. But that was impossible. He was dead. She had helped kill him by not diverting the attention of the two goons who had murdered him. That, she would never forget as long as she lived.

This last snippet is from my holiday novella A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES that will be re-released with a new publisher, WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER, this fall.

When widow Angela Bentley takes in injured ex-gunhawk Nick Dalton and three orphans on Christmas Eve, she is determined only to lend a hand where needed. But when the children drag in a small, scraggly Christmas tree, Angela finds herself wanting to create a memorable holiday for them. Can these visitors become the family she longs for? For those who believe in miracles, anything is possible--even true love, in the most unlikely circumstances.

The girl’s shy expression had turned to one of hopeful expectation, her cornflower blue eyes lighting with genuine joy. Angela gave her a nod, her gaze returning to settle on the man. In the striking depths of his sapphire eyes, Angela saw a personal agony with which she was familiar, a pain completely separate from the physical wound he had suffered.

A wound to his soul.

It drew her to him in spite of her intention to remain aloof. She placed a steadying hand on his side. He muffled a groan and stiffened at her gentle touch. “I’m sorry,” she murmured. He looked to be in much worse shape than she had first thought. When Angela drew her hand away, it was smudged red-brown in the fading light, and sticky with his blood. He took a shallow breath, raspy and ragged.

The older boy looked at her, eyes wide.

“Let’s get him inside,” she said, hiding most of her alarm. The stranger slid from the saddle with a harsh groan.

I hope you all have enjoyed my “LOOK” Challenge snippets. I had fun with this, and

will continue to be on the “LOOKOUT” for more instances of using “LOOK.” Please feel free to join me in posting your snippets from a current WIP or recent release. Give us a LOOK at how you use LOOK. LOL

GABRIEL’S LAW will (hopefully) be available in 2013.

TEMPTATION’S TOUCH will be available October 24, 2012 in both print and e-book format.

A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES will be available in time for the holidays this year as well.

For all my short stories, novellas, novels and other works in anthologies and collections, please click here:

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Obviously, I love the West or I wouldn't be associated with Sweethearts of the West. Even my contemporary novels and mysteries are set in the West, but I've written more novels set in the historic West as depicted by Frederick Remington. A few of his works are in the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. I love that museum, which is one of the few free museums around. If I were wealthy, I'd have a larger home with walls hung with western art. As it is, I look at books like the one Dover Publishing sells (with a DVD) of famous Western paintings. Let me tell you about one of my favorite Western artists, Frederick Remington.

Frederick Sackrider Remington was the most successful Western illustrator in the “Golden Age” of illustration at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. Other Western artists such as Charles Russell (another of my favorites) and Charles Schreyvogel were known during Remington’s life as members of the “School of Remington”. His style was naturalistic, sometimes impressionistic, and usually veered away from the realism of earlier Western artists such as George Catlin. His focus was firmly on the people and animals of the West, with landscape usually of secondary importance--as opposed to Albert Bierstadt, who focused on the natural beauty with people and/or animals minutely included. Remington took artistic liberties in his depictions of human action, and for the sake of his readers’ and publishers’ interest. Though always confident in his subject matter, Remington was less sure about his colors, and critics often harped on his palette, but his lack of confidence drove him to experiment and produce a great variety of effects, some very true to nature and some imagined. You can see his solution clearly in the shadows below.

Aiding A Comrade, circa 1890

Remington was born in Canton, New York October 4, 1861 to Clara (Sackrider)  and Seth Pierre Remington. The family moved to Ogdensburg, New York when Remington was eleven and he attended Vermont Episcopal Institute, a church-run military school, where his father hoped discipline would rein in his son’s lack of focus, and perhaps lead to a military career via West Point. Remington took his first drawing lessons at the Institute. He then transferred to another military school where his classmates found the young Remington to be a pleasant fellow, a bit careless and lazy, good-humored, and generous of spirit, but definitely not soldier material. He enjoyed making caricatures and silhouettes of his classmates.

At sixteen, he wrote to his uncle of his modest ambitions, “I never intend to do any great amount of labor. I have but one short life and do not aspire to wealth or fame in a degree which could only be obtained by an extraordinary effort on my part”. He imagined a career for himself as a journalist, with art as a sideline. Can you tell he was an only child and much pampered? ☺ 

Remington was accepted to art school at Yale University, but while there, he spent more time in the sports programs than in attending art classes. He didn’t like drawing still life or from casts. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved horseback riding, swimming, camping and numerous other forms of exercise. He left Yale in 1879 to help nurse his ailing father, who died a year later of tuberculosis.

Living off his inheritance and modest work income, Remington refused to go back to art school and instead spent time camping and enjoying himself. At nineteen, he made his first trip west, going to Montana, at first to buy a cattle operation then a mining interest but realized he did not have sufficient capital for either. In the Old West of 1881, he saw the vast prairies, the quickly shrinking buffalo herds, the still unfenced cattle, and the last major confrontations of U.S. Cavalry and native American tribes, scenes he had imagined since his childhood. He also hunted grizzly bears with Montague Stevens in New Mexico in 1895. Though the trip was undertaken as a lark, it gave Remington a more authentic view of the West than some of the later artists and writers who followed in his footsteps, such as N. C. Wyeth and Zane Grey, who arrived twenty-five years later when the Old West had slipped into history.

From that first trip, Harper's Weekly published Remington’s first published commercial effort, a re-drawing of a quick sketch on wrapping paper that he had mailed back East. In 1883, Remington went to rural Peabody, Kansas, to try his hand at the booming sheep ranching and wool trade, as one of the “holiday stockmen”, rich young Easterners out to make a quick killing as ranch owners. He invested his entire inheritance but Remington found ranching to be a rough, boring, isolated occupation which deprived him of the finer things of Eastern life, and the real ranchers thought of him as lazy.(Refer to his letter to his Uncle Bill above.)

A Dash For The Timber, 1889

Remington was one of the first American artists to illustrate the true gait of the horse in motion (along with Thomas Eakins), as validated by the famous sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. (Which I was fortunate to see at Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum.) Previously, horses in full gallop were usually depicted with all four legs pointing out. The galloping horse became Remington’s signature subject, copied and interpreted by many Western artists who followed him, adopting the correct anatomical motion. Though criticized by some for his use of photography, Remington often created depictions that slightly exaggerated natural motion to satisfy the eye. He wrote, “the artist must know more than the camera... (the horse must be) incorrectly drawn from the photographic standpoint (to achieve the desired effect).”

He soon had enough success selling his paintings to locals to see art as a real profession. Remington returned home again, his inheritance gone but his faith in his new career secured, and he and his wife Eva moved to Brooklyn. He began studies at the Art Students League of New York and significantly bolstered his technique. Newspaper interest in the dying West was escalating. He submitted illustrations, sketches, and other works for publication with Western themes to Collier's and Harper's Weekly, as his recent Western highly exaggerated experiences and his hearty, breezy “cowboy” demeanor gained him credibility with the eastern publishers looking for authenticity. His first full-page cover under his own name appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 9, 1886, when he was twenty-five. With financial backing from his Uncle Bill, Remington was able to pursue his art career and support his wife.

Against the Sunset 1906

In 1886, Remington was sent to Arizona by Harper's Weekly on a commission as an artist-correspondent to cover the government’s war against Geronimo. Although he never caught up with Geronimo, Remington did acquire many authentic artifacts to be used later as props, and made many photos and sketches valuable for later paintings. He also made notes on the true colors of the West, such as “shadows of horses should be a cool carmine & Blue”, to supplement the black-and-white photos. Ironically, art critics later criticized his palette as “primitive and unnatural” even though it was based on actual observation.

After returning East, Remington was sent by Harper's Weekly to cover the Charleston, South Carolina earthquake of 1886. To expand his commission work, he also began doing drawings for Outing magazine. His first year as a commercial artist had been successful, earning Remington $1,200, almost triple that of a typical teacher. He had found his life’s work and bragged to a friend, “That’s a pretty good break for an ex cow-puncher to come to New York with $30 and catch on it ‘art’." 

Conjuring Back The Buffalo 1892

For commercial reproduction in black-and-white, he produced ink and wash drawings. As he added watercolor, he began to sell his work in art exhibitions. His works were selling well but garnered no prizes, as the competition was strong and masters like Winslow Homer and Eastman Johnson were considered his superiors. A trip to Canada in 1887, produced illustrations of the Blackfoot, the Crow Nation, and the Canadian Mounties, eagerly enjoyed by the reading public.

Later that year, Remington received a commission to do eighty-three illustrations for a book by Theodore Roosevelt, RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAIL, to be serialized in The Century Magazine before publication. The 25-year-old Roosevelt had a similar Western adventure to Remington, losing money on a ranch in North Dakota the previous year but gaining experience which made him an “expert” on the West. The assignment gave Remington’s career a big boost and forged a lifelong connection with Roosevelt.

The Buffalo Hunt, 1890

His full-color oil painting Return of the Blackfoot War Party was exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the New York Herald commented that Remington would “one day be listed among our great American painters”. Though not admired by all critics, Remington’s work was deemed “distinctive” and “modern”. By now, he was demonstrating the ability to handle complex compositions with ease, as in Mule Train Crossing the Sierras in 1888, and to show action from all points of view. His status as the new trendsetter in Western art was solidified in 1889 when he won a second-class medal at the Paris Exposition. He had been selected by the American committee to represent American painting over Albert Bierstadt.

Around this time, Remington made a gentleman’s agreement with Harper's Weekly, giving the magazine an informal first option on his output but maintaining Remington’s independence to sell elsewhere if desired. As a bonus, the magazine launched a massive promotional campaign for Remington, stating that “He draws what he knows, and he knows what he draws.” Though laced with blatant puffery common for the time claiming that Remington was a bona fide cowboy and Indian scout, the effect of the campaign was to raise Remington to the equal of the era’s top illustrators, Howard Pyle and Charles Dana Gibson.

His first one-man show, in 1890, presented twenty-one paintings at the American Art Galleries and was very well received. With success all but assured, Remington became established in society. His personality, his “pseudo-cowboy” speaking manner, and “Wild West” reputation were strong social attractions. His biography falsely promoted some of the myths he encouraged about his Western experiences.

Remington’s association with Roosevelt paid off and the artist became a war correspondent and illustrator during the Spanish-American War in 1898, sent to provide illustrations for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. He witnessed the assault on San Juan Hill by American forces, including those led by Roosevelt. However, his heroic conception of war, based in part on his father’s Civil War experiences, were shattered by the actual horror of jungle fighting and the deprivations he faced in camp. His reports and illustrations upon his return focused not on heroic generals but on the troops, as in his Scream of the Shrapnel in 1899, which depicts a deadly ambush on American troops by an unseen enemy. When the Rough Riders returned to the U.S., they presented their courageous leader Roosevelt with Remington’s bronze statuette, The Broncho Buster, which the artist proclaimed, “the greatest compliment I ever had…After this everything will be mere fuss.” Roosevelt responded, “There could have been no more appropriate gift from such a regiment.”

                                                   REMINGTON THE AUTHOR

In 1888, he achieved the honor of having two paintings used for reproduction on U. S. Postal stamps. In 1900, as an economy move, Harper’s dropped Remington as their star artist. To compensate for the loss of work, Remington wrote and illustrated a full-length novel, THE WAY OF AN INDIAN, which was intended for serialization by a Hearst publication. Five years later the novel was published in Cosmopolitan. (Hmmm, I guess Cosmo has changed a lot since then.) Remington’s protagonist, a Cheyenne named Fire Eater, is a prototype Native American as viewed by Remington and many of his time.

Remington completed another novel in 1902, JOHN ERMINE OF THE YELLOWSTONE, a modest success but a definite disappointment. Remington's novel was completely overshadowed by the best seller THE VIRGINIAN, written by his sometime collaborator Owen Wister, which became a classic Western novel. A stage play based on “John Ermine” failed in 1904. After “John Ermine”, Remington decided he would soon quit writing and illustration (after drawing over 2700 illustrations) to focus on sculpture and painting.

                                                   REMINGTON THE SCULPTOR

Remington then returned to sculpture, and his first new works were produced by the lost wax method, a higher quality process than the earlier sand casting method he had employed. By 1901, Collier's was buying Remington’s illustrations on a steady basis. As his style matured, Remington portrayed his subjects in every light of day. His nocturnal paintings, very popular in his late life, such as A Taint on the Wind and Scare in the Pack Train, are more impressionistic and loosely painted, and focus on the unseen threat.

The Bronco Buster

In 1903, Remington painted His First Lesson set on an American-owned ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. The hands wear heavy chaps, starched white shirts, and slouch-brimmed hats. In his paintings, Remington sought to let his audience "take away something to think about -- to imagine." In 1905, Remington had a major publicity coup when Collier's devoted an entire issue to the artist, showcasing his latest works. His large outdoor sculpture of a “Big Cowboy”, which stands on Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, was another late success. His “Explorers” series, depicting older historical events in western U.S. history, did not fare well with the public or the critics. The financial panic of 1907 caused a slow down in his sales and in 1908, fantasy artists, such as Maxfield Parrish, became popular with the public and with commercial sponsors. Remington tried to sell his home in New Rochelle to get further away from urbanization. One night he made a bonfire in his yard and burned dozens of his oil paintings which had been used for magazine illustration (worth millions of dollars today), making an emphatic statement that he was done with illustration forever. He wrote, “there is nothing left but my landscape studies”.

Old Stage Coach Of The Plains, 1901

Near the end of his life, he moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut. In his final two years, under the influence of The Ten, he was veering more heavily to Impressionism, and he regretted that he was studio bound by virtue of his declining health and could not follow his peers who painted plein air. Obesity had become a constant problem for him due to his excessive eating and drinking, exacerbated by attending frequent banquets to promote his painting. He was admired as a "man's man and a deuce of a good fellow" among his friends and acquaintances.

Frederic Remington died after an emergency appendectomy led to peritonitis on December 26, 1909. The active man of his youth and prime then weighed nearly 300 pounds. His obesity complicated the anesthesia and the surgery, and chronic appendicitis was cited in the post-mortem examination as an underlying factor in his death. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Canton, New York.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the biography.
Photos from Dover Publications
Sculpture photo from Wikipedia

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lose a quick twenty five pounds….

How, you might ask. Simple. Just take off your clothes. That is if you were living in the mid 1800’s. A woman’s ensemble could easily weigh over twenty-five pounds—not including socks, shoes, overcoat/cape, hat and gloves.

Their outfits usually started with the tight corset (also known as stays) which, by the way, was claimed to ‘provide even the stoutest of women a healthy option to control the shape of her body’. Along with the corset, add at least two petticoats, drawers, a chemise, crinoline, and bustle with cover, a corset cover, the ever fashionable hoop skirt, which was made with thick, heavy wire so it wouldn’t lose its shape, and then over all of this came the dress, (these were often made of heavy cottons, brocades, and wools).

This cartoon is from the July 11th 1857 issue of Harper's Weekly (New York).

In the 1860’s the popular, huge hoop skirts limited movement and sitting to the point at some social events, woman stood for the entire evening. No wonder the ‘vapors’ set in! (Women would soak a small sponge in vinegar and conceal it in their handkerchief to sniff when they grew lightheaded to keep from fainting.)

With the popularity of the home sewing machine, patented in the U.S. in 1848, and then the invention of paper patterns in the 1860’s, came infinite changes in apparel, both for men and women. The ability to mass produce clothing provided accessibility to a much larger array. Synthetic dyes were also becoming more popular, which provided bold, vibrant colors. The Civil War and the western land runs also changed fashion. During this time the simpler clothing worn by the ‘working’ class became more popular, especially in the south and west. Laboring in the plantation fields and/or walking for up to forty miles a day beside a covered wagon, women quickly discarded layers and the more constricting garments.  Until then most of the fashions came from overseas, and filtered through the U.S. by way of New York, but the gold rush in California quickly increased the population of the western U.S. shore and the women there, being outnumbered by men two to one, had the power to instill new fashion trends.

We often think of split skirts for horseback riding, but it wasn’t until the bicycle increased in popularity that split skirts and bloomers became popular. The trend started in San Francisco where women started to ‘shorten’ their skirts to ride bike. This is also where the ‘General Association for the Simplification of Women's Clothing’ was founded in 1896.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meet the Authors of Honky Tonk Hearts!

Honky Tonk Hearts
New Series on The Wild Rose Press

Lonely hearts seem to gravitate to the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk. A few miles outside Amarillo off historical Route 66, the large wood-paneled structure boast a large neon star with a single flashing steer riding away from it. Owner and bartender, Gus Rankin, has seen his share of the wandering souls cross his bar and dance floor over the years—he’d even like to think he helped a few find true love along the way.

Greeting, ladies! I'm very happy to host you on Sweethearts of the West. It's very nice that I know all of you and something about your writing, too. But I'm wondering if you've been in a Honky Tonk. I'm an old hand at CW dancing in Texas Honky Tonks--back in the 80s! The Crystal Chandelier where I saw George Strait before he hit it really big; No Whar But Texas in Dallas; The Wagon Wheel, and nearby Gruene Hall, the Oldest Dance Hall in Texas. The atmosphere is basically the same in all of them. Celia

1. So, what is your experience with Honky Tonks, and how much of that is in your story?
Jannine Gallant: Celia. I’m a California girl, so I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t any experience with Honky Tonks. Nothing But Trouble includes two scenes that take place in the Lonesome Steer – one in the morning when it’s closed and a second on Karaoke night. I figured Karaoke is much the same in Texas as it is in California!

Lauri Robinson: I’ve only seen honky tonks in movies and the famous Bird Cage in tombstone.  So for Sing to Me, Cowboy, it was largely research and imagination and the sketch for the series.

Sherri Thomas: I love the music and line dancing associated with Honky Tonks. There is some dancing in Lost Memories.

Vonnie Davis: Celia, I’m a Honky Tonk virgin. But Stacy, editor of our series, gave us a great description of both the interior and exterior of The Lonesome Steer, which was a great kicking off point for my story Those Violet Eyes. As a dancer, I can do the Texas-two-step, having taken lessons in Pennsylvania where I was living at the time. So, (author blushes) guess you could say I do the Yankee-Texas-two-step.

Donna Michaels: Hi, Celia! Thank you so much for having us here today. As for experience in Honky Tonks, I used to frequent ‘Emma’s On The Trail’ where we’d go to eat and dance to a live band, but unfortunately it disappeared with one of our floods. Most of COWBOY-SEXY (release date 1-02-13) takes place on a ranch, so not much of my Honky Tonk experience went into my story.

Brenda Whiteside: Phoenix, Arizona certainly has its share of honky tonks. I have to admit I’ve two-stepped through a few of them. But I’m not part of my story. I do think my western upbringing helped me tell an authentic story.

I love the blurbs and excerpts of all your stories.
2. Where did you get your ideas for your hero and heroine?

Sherri: Nick and Darcy originated from a combination of country songs. They started off as very vague characters. It was more the scene that developed first.

Vonnie: My hero, Win, roared into our bedroom on his Harley. I’d been struggling with a scene in a book set in Paris and was a little miffed with my French hero. Believe me, the last thing I needed was another man invading my mind. But Win charmed me with his polite Texan twang and those soulful hazel eyes. I knew in an instant he was a wounded war vet. As for Evie, she just stomped into my mind in those pink cowgirl boots, crossed her arms and announced she wasn’t taking any of Win’s guff. All righty then…

Donna: My husband is career military and I wanted to capture some of the issues they have to deal with when they come home. So, when Stacy told me about this series, I knew I wanted my cowboy to be military, too. Then I thought, heck, I’m going to have my heroine in there as well. And what better way to add tension then to put them in different branches. Viola! COWBOY-SEXY was born. The characters seriously wrote themselves.

Lauri: With a honky tonk as the setting, a Honky Tonk Man was perfect.  I didn’t want Sunny to be the usual rancher’s daughter so I had her come on scene as a waitress, which set the story up for misadventure. 

Jannine: My story evolved out of my vision of the opening scene. Honor is stranded on Route 66 outside the Lonesome Steer. Chase offers her a ride. She takes one look at him and knows he’s nothing but trouble.

Brenda Whiteside: Most of my stories prior to this novella had parts of people I have known. This is one of the few times I can say they are both totally out of my imagination.
Evie Caldwell hates her life. Five years ago, she gave up college and her dream of teaching to care for her ailing mother. Now, she's trapped taking care of her worthless brother and the family ranch. Waiting tables to earn her way out of Texas, the last thing she wants is a muscleman with a macho Marine attitude complicating her life. But, oh, how that man makes her insides melt.
Wounded vet Win Fairchild returns to Texas to heal, find a piece of his soul, and open a ranch for amputee children. Finding someone to love is not on his agenda. But when he starts work at the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk, a spitfire with violet eyes and a major attitude instantly captures his heart.
Evie just wants to escape, but now that Win knows what he wants, can he convince Evie to stay in Texas—and his bed?

Heather Gibson's past catches up with her one dark Texas night.
Locked in a custody battle with an ex-husband who's looking for any excuse to take her children, Heather doesn't need any more trouble. But when a broken-down car and a dead cell phone leave her stranded at the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk, she comes face-to-face with the one man who could jeopardize everything—including her heart.
Country-singing sensation Lance Dugan is back in Amarillo for his grandfather's birthday and to take care of a bit of unfinished business—apologize to Heather for leaving ten years ago. Lance has fought hard and won big the last few years, but seeing Heather again makes him wonder if he's been fighting for the right things.
Finding each other again may seem like fate, but one horrible secret, buried deep, could divide them forever.

Chase Paladin avoids commitment like a patch of stinging nettles. He's seen how love can trample a man, and he doesn't plan to get hitched—ever. But when Honor Jackson walks into his life, hell-bent on keeping her distance, she turns his convictions inside out.
One look at the too-handsome cowboy with laughing green eyes and a killer smile, and Honor knows he's nothing but trouble. She's come to Redemption, Texas to help an old friend, not to let another man charm her into certain heartache.
But every time she turns around, Chase is there, and the closer they get, the more she fears he'll break her heart. So when anonymous threats make it clear that someone in Redemption wants her gone, Honor is ready to oblige. Only now Chase isn’t certain he can live without her.
Will two wary hearts take a chance on love before it's too late?

Can there really be love at first sight?
Abigail Martin doesn't think so. Unless the sexy red-headed stranger she wakes up with the morning after her best friend's wedding is telling the truth.
Bobby Stockwood fell cowboy-hat-over-boot-heels for the brown-haired beauty, and married her in an impromptu wedding ceremony. Now he just has to convince his new bride that the morning after can be the first day of the rest of their lives.
But just when Abigail starts believing the fairy-tale is real, she finds out exactly who Bobby is, and the walls of make-believe start crumbling down.

JAN. 2, 2013
Finn Brennan is used to his brother playing practical jokes, but this time he's gone too far--sending Finn a woman as a ranch hand. And not just any woman, but a Marine. When 1st Lt. Camilla Walker's commanding officer asks her to help out at his family's dude ranch until he returns from deployment, she never expects to be thrust into a mistaken engagement to his sexy, cowboy twin--a former Navy SEAL who hates the Corps. But before long, Cammie is wishing their fake engagement could be real. The Corps took Finn's father, his girlfriend, and threatened his naval career. He's worked hard for another shot at getting back to active duty. The last thing he needs is a headstrong, unyielding, hot Marine who not only tempts his bed, but soon has him rethinking his goals.
When your past is a blank, it’s hard to trust the future…
A car accident leaves Darcy Brooks with amnesia, but she’s determined it won’t ruin her life. She finds a job on a dude ranch—hiding her brain trauma to get it—and falls in love with her work. Now if she can just avoid falling in love with her boss.
Nick Matthews knows his new employee is hiding something, and he’s determined to discover what. He’s failed to protect his family from disaster in the past and won’t let it happen again. Now if he can just keep his attraction to Darcy from clouding his judgment.
Nick soon comes to value Darcy as an employee and a friend—even as the heat between them builds. But when a man claiming to be Darcy's husband shows up, Nick realizes just how much he wants to keep Darcy for himself.
Authors, thank you so much for your answers. All the books sound like great stories, and the covers are outstanding, as The Wild Rose Press usually does. Congratulations to you all.
Readers: Please visit The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, B&N, and Fictionwise

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dashing Druid Takes 3rd in High Profile Contest

Cover 35% for WP posts pgHey y'all, I have exciting news! I just got word from the Hearts Through History RWA chapter that my entry in their 2012 Romance Through the Ages Published Author Contest is a winner. Dashing Druid took third place in the Colonial/Civil War/Western category. Entries were judged by avid romance readers. Winners will be included in a full-page RWR (Romance Writers Report) advertisement.

Woohoo! Am I thrilled? You better believe it!

I’ve guest blogged on Sweethearts before, but since I’m new as a member of the group, I’d like to introduce myself today. Born in San Francisco and raised in Minnesota, I’ve lived in Texas for close to three decades, along with my husband and an ever changing brood of cats. I’m a former fashion illustrator and art instructor, but I began writing years ago as a hobby. This hobby grew into an enduring love of historical research and the crafting of passionate love stories based on that research.

In late 2010, I self-published DARLIN' DRUID, book one in my Texas Druids trilogy, and a year later book two, DASHING DRUID. I’m currently working on the third book, due to be released in early 2013. Now, you’re probably wondering how Druids could possibly be in the Old West, right? It’s simple really. I’ve love western romances and stories set in Ireland or among Irish Americans. Combining the two was a no brainer. Eventually, when seeking to add a paranormal element to my stories about a trio of siblings – children of Irish immigrants – I decided to make them descendants of Irish Druids, each with a different psychic gift. I don’t think this combination has been tried before.

Here’s part of what reviewer Todd Fonseca had to say about Darlin’ Druid:

“I'll admit I was completely thrown by the title of this book. If for some reason you are as well, "fuhgeddaboudit"! This is an engaging, page turning, can't put it down, don't know where the time went, read. In fact, when I received Horner's book I had already started Steig Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"; having finished the first two books in Larsson's series I was anxious to complete the third. But I picked up Horner's book and frankly the pace was so much faster and the book more engaging that I put best selling Hornet aside in favor of finishing Horner's book.”

 Did that make my day? You know it!

In addition to my novels, I’ve published a novella titled WHITE WITCH – a prequel to the trilogy – and a memoir, SIX CATS IN MY KITCHEN.

Find me at these sites:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sarah J. McNeal, New Contributor

This is my first blog on Sweethearts of the West and so I’d like to introduce myself to you and tell you a little about myself.
My name is Sarah J. McNeal. I write in several genres including historical western romance, contemporary, and fantasy and sometimes with a combination of paranormal and time travel. 

I would love to go back in time and experience history in the making, but the scientific community insists it cannot be done. Bummer. I don’t believe in witches and goblins but I sure do believe that there are evil people in this world and I think that’s close enough. I love ghost stories and I like to write them into my stories. I included ghosts in Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride, The Violin, Gifts From the Afterlife and my most recent release, Heart Song. Two of my time travel stories still in contract are Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride and The Violin.

All of my books are romances but I didn’t start out that way. I used to write only science fiction and fantasy/paranormals, straight up with no chaser. My creative writing instructor suggested that I include a touch of romance and, when I did, I sold five short stories to magazines. Well, I certainly knew then what readers wanted and, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy writing romance.

I have spent a career as an RN, 21 years in coronary care and the last 17 years in the ER. I admit it was stressful and sometimes not so rewarding, but I did love the times when I felt I’d helped someone and made a difference in patients’ lives—sometimes quite literally.  By the end of my career, 3 years ago, I was happy to retire and do what I had always longed to do, devote my time to writing.

My second love is music. After playing the flute for a few years in grade school, I switched to violin when my dad gave me his brother’s violin. It inspired me to write the book, The Violin, because of my Uncle John’s tragic death. I thought he deserved a life so I gave him one. I also play the guitar. (Who didn’t back in those “hootenanny” days?) My dad and I used to play our harmonicas together. Sometimes we just made up our own tunes. I loved doing that with him. Later, I learned to play the bagpipes and, for a while, aspired to play in the Loch Norman Pipe Band—but apparently, not enough to practice every single day. I taught my great niece to play the violin and she taught me to play the recorder. We like to play our instruments together and confound our relatives with our expertise. Well, we like to think so anyway. Most of my stories include musical instruments of some kind or another.

The following are my books presently in contract:

The Violin published by Publishing by Rebecca Vickery:
1927 historical/time travel/paranormal
Loneliness...Mystery...A step through time
Genevieve dreams of him almost every night and has for most of her lonely life. Intrigued, she buys his violin and finds the remnants of his life and the mystery of his death in 1927 revealed within its case. Intrigued, she makes a decision, one that will change her life forever. 
Buy links: (available in digital and paperback)

Rebecca Vickery Publishing
Create Space

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride published by Western Trail Blazers: (digital and paperback)
1910 historical western/time travel/paranormal
A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.
Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?
Buy links:
 Western Trail Blazer Novels
Lulu Book Store
Barnes & Noble

For Love of Banjo published by Western Trail Blazers
WWI historical western/sequel to Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past.  To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.
Will either of them find happiness?     
BUY LINKS (digital and paperback)
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/136814
Lulu :
Monkey Bars : 

Heart Song published by Publishing at Rebecca Vickery
Contemporary/paranormal short story
My new release for 99 cents
Facing death might change Gideon’s life.
Gideon thought he had the perfect life as a musician with a beautiful model as his girlfriend, until he was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ashamed and afraid he may die, Gideon hits bottom when his girlfriend dumps him for a real man.

Hope comes in the form of his father’s ghost and a person he has just met. Can he beat the odds and survive? And if he does, can he ever find happiness again?
Buy link

Gifts From The Afterlife published by Victory Tales Press in the 2011 Christmas Collection
Contemporary/Paranormal/Holiday short story
How dark must it get before Lydia sees the light?
Lydia Sinclair’s life has run off the rails.  She has lost everyone she loves and Christmas has lost its meaning.  As Christmas approaches, Lydia wants to go to sleep and never wake up again.  Perhaps an angel, some ghosts and a childhood sweetheart can convince her that life is worth living again.  Can Lydia let go of what once was, renew her joy in Christmas and find the promise of hope for her future?  
Buy links (digital and paperback)
Smashwords Ebook 
Lulu Ebook 
Barns and Noble

Here are the places where you can find me:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?&new_box_added_id=7100654162#
Moonlight Romance Authors:  http://moonlightromanceauthors.blogspot.com/?zx=e8f0512666a5c2c
Sarah’s Provocative Ponderings:  http://pasttheprint.blogspot.com/
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/Starcriter
My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/sarahmcneal
PbRBWT Author Page:  
Once Upon a Word
And right here at Sweethearts of the West