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?
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.