Where do you run when your life has been stolen from you? Who do you trust? Allison Webster dreams of having an adventure like the characters in the books she loves. But there is no romance in being pursued by a man who wants her dead for educating the children of former slaves. Unlike the heroines she reads about she doesn't have a trusty companion to rescue her...until she literally runs into A.J. Adams, a former Confederate cavalry officer. Now, she just has to convince A.J. he really is the honorable man and hero depicted in the dime novel she is reading. When everything you fought for, including honor, is stripped away, what is left to fight for but revenge? Branded a "traitor" for more than ten years, scarred by harsh treatment in an inhumane prisoner of war camp, A.J. Adams wants revenge. Allison Webster's arrival into his life provides the bait to destroy the men who murdered his wife and daughters and kidnapped his little brother. The men pursuing Allison are the very same men he has sworn to kill. Falling in love and admitting he might actually be a hero means surrendering his need for vengeance. Surrender is not part of A.J.'s battle strategy.
When I wrote this book, I never intended for Drake and Jessica to have their own story. Most authors will tell you that characters develop minds of their own--and Drake and Jessica certainly did. While *Smolder* was in the editing stage, I had a great idea for a story for A.J.'s younger brother, Drake. That idea turned into *Seize the Flame*, coming soon from my publisher.
Allison has a tendency to state what is rather obvious, but layered within her statements is usually a commentary of the period norm. I walked a tightrope because of the perception of what the American Civil War was fought over. Yes, there was THAT "peculiar institution" to use the vernacular of the day, but both sides of the conflict originally went to war for different reasons: either States' Rights or to preserve the Union.
When I was researching this novel, and reading in their own words what many who had endured the atrocities of war, the subject of "forgiveness" was often mentioned. Many wrote of the admonition to "forgive and forget" and they also wrote of not being inclined to do so. This attitude was prevalent on both sides of the conflict which tore our great nation asunder. I also knew that I had to address A.J.'s betrayal by his best friend and would be limited by the parameters of a romance novel. I'm not sure, still, that I did justice to either character's need for forgiveness.
This whole chapter was--hands down--the most difficult thing I have ever written. I talked a friend who suffers from flashbacks brought about by traumatic events to make sure I had the descriptions of being wide awake while trapped in a walking, talking nightmare. It took me days to write this chapter and when I finally finished it, I was physically ill. I wanted to walk away from the book when I was faced with writing this chapter. And to my friend who opened up about the horrors of living with PTSD--you are the strongest person I know.
Some of the dialogue in this excerpt came directly from things I said--okay, I yelled--at my kids when they were first learning to ride. The "bone jarring trot" was my son's complaint and my response was to stop bouncing, that the horse he was riding had a very smooth, even trot. Even his sister told him to stop bouncing. His sister got the relaxing and moving with the horse's natural rhythm a lot faster than her brother did.
Being married to one of three local veterinarians and living in a small community, I've noticed people know more about one another than those who live elsewhere. We live in the county seat, so we're on a first name basis with many people. One of those people is our circuit court judge. He uses my husband as his veterinarian and he is one of the most decent, honorable men I have ever had the privilege to know. So, here's to the Honorable JT, Judge. God bless you, sir.
One of the things that intrigued me when I wrote this was how rumors of "lost Confederate gold" persist to this day. The legend of a missing payroll wagon in deep, southeastern Kentucky continues to this day, and played into the story line. However research reveled the Confederacy was cash-strapped. To quote a line from a very famous movie, "All the Confederacy has is slaves, cotton, and arrogance." There wasn't a lot of gold.
When I'm not writing, I show dogs--collies to be exact. When I started in this crazy journey of dog shows, two of my mentors were the giants in the breed: Joyce and Ben Houser of Twin Creeks Collies. I wanted to give a nod to some of the most beautiful collies I have ever seen and as a way to acknowledge how deeply I was influenced by the collies of Twin Creeks.
Closing the windows on a train shouldn't be difficult, right? WRONG! My editor and I went round and round on this one because neither one of us could find the information I needed on whether the windows opened up or if the top half slid down. I even went to a couple of boards devoted solely to steam engine trains and asked and never got a satisfactory answer. In my research I did learn a lot about steam engines and that they were named for the wheel configuration on the engines. I love the era of steam power locomotives.
This was the most research intensive thing I've ever written (outside of the work I did in my master's program). I wanted the details right. Being an English/history major as an undergrad, I had to have the details right. While doing the research, I came across a group of men that CSA Brigadier General J. S. Breckenridge called his "beloved orphans" at the Stones River Campaign. When I began creating the back story for the hero, I knew he had to be in the Confederacy and the famed 1st Kentucky Brigade became his military home.
Originally this book was a contemporary that I never sent out into the world. When I decided to make the story an historical romance, these were the first words I heard the hero say. And, it sounded so much like the hero in the contemporary--full of snark--that I knew the historical period would work as well.
He's everything she fears… Wounded gunfighter Colt Evans stumbles onto a remote homestead never expecting to find compassion. But beautiful Amelia McCollister is like no other woman. Suddenly, his dream of settling down with a wife and home is within reach—but only if his past never comes gunning for him. She's everything he dreams of… Amelia had to grow up fast after outlaws murdered her parents, leaving her to raise her siblings alone. With a young brother who idolizes shootists, she dreads having a notorious gunman in her home. But as Colt slowly recovers, he reveals a caring nature under his tough exterior that Amelia can't resist. Just when Colt starts to believe he can leave the gunfighter life behind, his past returns, bringing danger to them all. Can a shootist ever hang up his hardware? Or will their dreams disappear in the smoke of a desperado's gun?
The granite is the Medicine Bow range is unique in that it sits atop sedimentary rock, the result of upheaval. It's also the most interesting shade of pink/white/black. That granite is officially known as Sherman granite.
For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with Wyoming. The area between Cheyenne and Laramie, where I have set this novel is the area where I feel the most at home. I hope that some of the love I hold for this harsh, often unforgiving, and amazingly beautiful land is conveyed in this section.
Colt's horse is a very thinly disguised rendition of my own horse, a 3/4 Arabian gelding. Dipper is registered as a grey, but he started life looking more like a strawberry roan. The older he got, the less strawberry he was until now at 30 years old, he's a silver grey. Baby-sitter, gentleman, and in his younger days, capable of turning into a high-octane jet engine with a quick bridle and bit change. He's been in my life since he was 7 months old.
Jenny was my favorite secondary character to write and also one of the most difficult. For more than 90% of the book, she refuses to utter a word, so I had to have her communicate in other manners. This little girl was very capable of communicating and some of my favorite scenes are between her and Colt.
Saul's deliberate messy look was based loosely on my own son at the same age. When he was twelve, my son's idea of showering was to stand in the shower until he ran the hot water out. He couldn't have scrubbed up because he seldom took a washrag with him. Fortunately, once he hit puberty and discovered girls...the slob vanished and I gained a male fashionista.
Federal actually existed at one time in Wyoming. I don't know for certain that it was a town during the territorial days of Wyoming, but by the mid 1940s it began appearing on maps that my Grandmother collected on her travels that she called her "automobile tours." Now, Federal isn't much more than a wide spot on a spur of the Burlington-Northern Railroad. I gave it a much richer life than it probably had.
This was one of the first scenes I wrote in *The Devil's Own Desperado* and from this scene I started to build the personalities--Saul who is so young and sees Colt through a haze of hero worship, and Colt as a jaded, almost too old shootist at the ripe old age of twenty eight. Saul's reason for wanting to be a gunfighter was simple. He wanted revenge for the murder of his parents. Colt's reasons for becoming a notorious shootist were far from simple.
Marshal Harrison Taylor and the love of his life, Rachel (Leonard) Taylor are the cornerstone of the fictional community I created in a town that at one time did exist in Wyoming. They make secondary character appearances in every historical romance I've written and yet they are the first romance couple I ever wrote. Their complete story is coming soon.
I have to admit, when I typed this sentence, I was ear wormed with a protest song from the 1970s referring to the Vietnam Conflict and the shootings at Kent State University. Trying to force that song from my head made staying in period a little difficult.
Angel is based on a 30 year old Arabian gelding I've had for most of my adult life. Dipper is an angel, sweet, tractable, and nearly snow-white, though he is registered as a grey.
Captain was based on a rooster that I had for almost five years. He had a very nasty habit of attacking from behind and Colt's threat to put a bullet into his head and have him for dinner was verbatim from a conversation I had with my brother after this rooster attacked him for the third time in one day. My brother named that rooster that day and until the day he died, the rooster was "Dinner."
I had to give a nod to my alma mater. Indiana State University was originally a state normal school, which meant it start life as an institution of higher learning to teach people how to be teachers. Indiana State University still maintains a respected place in teacher education. Go Sycamores...
No one knows for sure exactly what the fifth card in Bill Hickok's hand was when he was killed in a poker game. Some say it was the queen of hearts, but even more say it was the nine of diamonds. I went with the majority.
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