Merci, ladies of the Pink Fuzzy Slippers, for allowing my post...

This past weekend, my anthology Sweet Sips of Blood was released by Vamptasy Publishing in the UK. A series of ten short stories about the Undead condition, these are stories aim more for the lighter side of being paranormal, and are designed to amuse, titillate, and with a couple of exceptions, not to chill…

…a light-fingered thief steals the wrong identity…

…a vampire again courts a woman he knew thirty years before, refusing to let her wrinkles and white hair blunt his desire…

… a vampire with a toothache seeks out an unusual dentist…and gets an unexpected bonus...

Though there have always been vampires among us, the literary vampire didn’t begin to flourish until the mid-1880’s. It was in 1819 that the novel The Vampyre birthed a vampire-frenzy lasting to this day. And then, in 1845-57, Varney the Vampire crash-landed on the scene. A newspaper serial running 220 chapters (that certainly eats any of my stories!), it was written by either James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Preskett Prest, depending on which you prefer. Now, the fanged fiend was off and running…uh…flying. Stage plays, more novels, short stories, and eventually cinema followed.

The Undead have flourished ever since, but it was in the 1970’s that the literary vision of the vampire began to change. Until that time, the vampire was a creature damned and doomed… to walk the corridors of time for Eternity with an immortality enabling him to laugh at puny humans. Then, something happened. The vampire is still cursed…but now immortality’s no longer a blessing. Now, he acknowledges the ennui and despair accompanying being immortal. He laments his ability to live forever, hating the fact that he’s forced to kill others to continue his own survival. He wrings his taloned fingers in dispair. He searches the world for someone brave enough to accompany him on his Undead tour of eternity.

From creature of the night subsisting on a liquid protein diet and cursed to forever appear in a tuxedo, to sympathetic protagonist wanting only to be accepted, he’s adjusting his lifestyle into more acceptable patterns; the literary/theatrical/film vampire has done a complete about-face. These days sunscreen shields him from the sun, he has a friend at the local blood bank (or makes a stop in Bon Temps and asks Sam for a bottle of synthetic blood). and generally doesn't morph unless he or his colleagues/friends are in danger. He works for a living—as a private eye, on the night shift of a police department, as the owner of a New Orleans restaurant.

The 21st century version—the new breed of vampire—seems to have shaken off his dulled-by-the-millennia boredom and bounced back with enthusiasm. The Undead now wants to have his cake—being treated as human—and eat it too—being immortal. In Sweet Sips of Blood, sometimes the vampire gets his “cake”; in others, he’s still outside, staring in through the bakery window. Like the sweet sips of blood sustaining the vampire’s existence, these stories are sweet sips into vampires’ secret souls…

Sweet Sips of Blood is available from Vamptasy Publishing (UK),

SPECIAL BONUS: go to: and get a free download. Voucher Code: CT78N

The beginning of my novel The Night Man Cometh is set during one of the most horrific times in human history, the time of the Black Plague. Even if the novel wasn't a horror story, setting it during that period would make at least a segment of it such. This isn’t a particularly pleasant subject, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating one…

There have been three major outbreaks of bubonic plague. The first, the Plague of Justinian, was the first documented outbreak occurring in the 6th and 7th centuries. In the 13th century, the more famous pandemic, which we call the Black Death, raged, killing 60% of Europe’s and the British Isles’ populations. The last outbreak occurred in the 1890’s and swept through China and India.

The Black Plague was believed to have been brought from China via the Silk Road. Also named the “Great Pestilence” or the “Great Plague”, contemporaries referred to it as the “Great Mortality.” It occurred at the end of the 13th century, during what would later be called the “Little Ice Age.”

Physicians in that time had only vague ideas of how to treat the disease; they also had little information on how to shield themselves or anyone else from its contagion. In order to protect himself as he treated patients, a physician wore a long gown of either leather or canvas, as well as leggings, gloves, boots, and hat, all coated with wax, with herbs and dried flowers embedded in it. A mask covered his face and was held in place by leather straps. It was shaped like a bird’s beak and hence, the title “beak doctor” came into being. The eyes of the mask were covered with glass lenses and the beak itself was filled with dried flowers and aromatic herbs, the idea being that their scent would displace the evil “miasma” of the plague.

The “Doctor of Plague” or “Beak Doctor” also carried long wooden dowels which were used to point out areas on the body needing treatment and also perform other tasks without touching the patient, such as taking the pulse. (The sketch at the right is a copy of "The Beak Doctor of Rome" done in 1656 by Paul Furst.)

The Black Death was truly a devastating time for humanity and one can only hope it is never visited upon us again. There are, however, at least a dozen reported cases of plague in the US every year, concentrated in the Southwest. In 2009, there were 6 cases in New Mexico. On May 14, 2011, a man in New Mexico had the dubious distinction to be the first person infected this year. Around the world, there are approximately 2000-3000 cases reported each year.

In my novel, The Night Man Cometh, after a meeting with the local beak doctor, Damian la Croix, heir of the Marquis la Croix of Limousin, France, elects to voluntarily become a vampire rather than face death by the Plague. In doing so, he becomes the last man to bear the title Marquis la Croix, and from then on is known as Chevalier du Morte, the Night Man, and begins his solitary walk through the corridors of Time.

The Night Man Cometh is a bit graphic in spots, but one can’t write about the plague and be poetic. It was a harsh and terrible time and I, for one, am grateful for the advances and knowledge medicine has made in the interim.


There was a creaking of the gate as one of the guards swung it open. While he’d been distracted by the wagon and his own thoughts, the beak-doctor left the chateau.

Damien waited until the physician was outside before he waylaid him. “Docteur le sangsue, tell me, how is she? How is my Antoinette?”

Desperate, begging the man not to say exactly what he said.

“I’m sorry, Your Lordship.” His voice was muffled through his protective mask.

Damien wished he’d remove it. He wanted to see the man’s face as he spoke. So he could tell if he was lying. He won’t take off the mask. ’Tis his protection. His armor against death.

“’Tis a fast-moving case, faster than most.” His sigh was irritated, more at being inconvenienced by Damien stopping him from leaving than holding any regret or sympathy.

Damien’s resentment flared. He sounds as if he truly doesn’t care. The Vicomte’s your patron. You owe him your best skill.

“I doubt she’ll last another day.” It was said flatly with no concern for his feelings. Without another word, the doctor turned and walked away. Damien kept pace with him, though far enough from the robed figure they didn’t touch. “You shouldn’t have come here. By leaving the safety of your own estate you place yourself in danger.”

Safety? Hah! How can that stupid man call my home safe when eight of our serfs already show the first signs? Damien wanted to backhand the fool. Pick him up and heave him into one of the pits where his many patients now lay waiting consignment to purifying fire. If one’s home’s so safe, how did Antoinette and her mother, who rarely left its confines, become ill in the first place?

He watched the sangsue remove his plague-protectors—that ludicrous mask with the long, beak of a nose making him resemble a marsh crane—while his narrow, cassock-like robe added the final, bizarre likeness to some kind of Hell-escaped demon. He pulled the covering with its crystal-shielded eye sockets from his head, the hand holding it falling to his side.

So he believes he’s safe at this distance? Fool, he wanted to shout. You’re no more protected than the rest of us. Do you think wearing some wax and leather and sniffing camphor and vinegar will protect you? Doctors die of the same things as their patients. All the time.

Didn’t the churchyard have a special section for the illustrious medical men who’d succumbed while treating others? Though now, of course, there were no new graves. There was no room; the cemetery yard of Village de la Croix was filled, the holy soil itself contaminated. Thus, the dead, whether noble or common, Marquis or serf, were now taken to a pit on the edge of town and burned, relinquished to purifying fire. And when that one was filled with too many ashes, another was dug, and when that one filled, another…

What’s the use? He said none of it. Just nodded numbly, bowed to the physician, and stumbled back to his own horse, grazing a few feet away. Will arguing save Antoinette? If that were so, he’d have been her salvation and his own the moment the first soul was stricken.

Wind made the doctor’s stiff robe sway. It rattled as it billowed, the overpowering fragrances of mint, camphor, roses, and sweet shrub floated toward Damien. Like the covering holding the corpses in the wagon, the coat was fashioned of wax-painted on leather, as were his leggings and gloves. The mask, elongated and pointed as a birds-beak, tied by a strap going around the doctor’s head. The pointed end was filled with herbs and spices, sun-dried flower petals and other aromatic substances whose strong scents were carried by straws inserted into the nostrils, perfumes filling the physician’s lungs instead of the pestilence’s deadly smell.

Caching the reins, Damien swung into the saddle and left the doctor standing there, clutching his mask.

He tried not to think as the horse broke into a canter before being kicked into a head-long gallop. Didn’t want to think, but memories of Antoinette, of what had already happened, and what might have been, crowded his mind…

The Night Man Cometh is available from Class Act Books:

To quote Shakespeare, ‘All that glitters Is not gold,’ but SOME of it is.  The lure of buried treasure, an occasional flight of fancy for some and a soul-selling obsession for others, is an ageless fascination.  

No soul bartering here, but I’ve done some research for would be treasure hunters and discovered  there are many yet undiscovered troves in America.  Apparently in every state according to the book Buried Treasures You Can Find by Robert F. Marx.   An interesting and informative read, however the font size decreases to minuscule proportions when Mr. Marx reaches the part of the book where he actually lists possible sites, so don’t expect me to recap without a magnifying glass.  Instead I’ll touch on some of his general  guidelines.  I, for one, would be happy to discover even a single gold doubloon , but it would have to wash ashore.  I’m not scuba diving.

Author Robert Marx has been treasure-seeking ever since he quit his newspaper route as a youth and has recovered an astonishing array of lost, hidden, or mislaid treasure both on land and plucked from the depths of the sea. First of all, he says you need a good metal detector and devotes pages to weighing the merits of various kinds.  Agreed, a premier detector would be fun to have, and considering I live in historic Virginia, I might actually find a Civil War button or something from the past which would thrill me.   Bear in mind that I’m easily delighted.  I once unearthed what I thought were shards of old pottery while planting a peach tree that turned out to be the remnants of an antiquated septic system.  Not very exciting.  However, my determination to dig the hole deeper in search of my imagined find got the tree planted in a hurry.  The most I’ve ever unearthed on our farm are old medicine bottles, but I’m fond of old bottles and have a kitchen windowsill filled with them.
The next step Mr. Marx advises after you’ve conducted a thorough study of metal detectors (I haven’t) and made your purchase is to learn how to use it properly and practice, practice.  Yada, yada,  we’re up to page 63 now–this book is for serious seekers–when he describes some of the most famous still to be discovered caches, also discussing WHY people bury treasure.    I assumed because they didn’t want thieves to find it, but there’s more.  In Colonial America banks were rare and often unavailable so most people buried money on their property.  Indians might suddenly attack  or the British were coming, so they prepared for calamities, possibly dying before recovering their money.
During the Civil War people in the South buried their treasures not only to keep them out of enemy hands but to avoid having to donate to the Confederate Treasury for the war effort.  As before, the ‘safest bank’ was a hole in the ground or some other secret location.  Some of the largest undiscovered treasures occurred during the Civil War: Excerpted from the book Civil War Gold & Other Lost Treasures by W. Craig Gaines. ”The really big lost treasure is that of the Confederate Treasury in custody of Jeff Davis upon leaving Richmond, fleeing the Yankee hordes. Portions of it are believed to be in Greene & Morgan Counties of Georgia. The combined hoard is believed to be between $500,000 and $600,000 in gold, the combined values of the Richmond Bank & Confederate Treasury. Most made it to Washington, Georgia, but an untold amount remains unaccounted for.”
On the Western frontier, there were many cutthroats who preyed on hapless pioneers, and Lord knows those gold prospectors were justifiably paranoid.  So they kept their big strikes secret, some taking that knowledge with them to the grave.  And there were the gamblers, soldiers, saloon keepers…who hid their earnings.  Not to mention the stage-coach robbers who hid their  loot while escaping from the posse,  thinking to return for it later. But they didn’t all.   Get the picture?  Untold treasure is still out there–somewhere.  The key word is 'somewhere.'
If you’re seeking a specific cache, and there are some famous ones, Mr. Marx says to first be certain it truly exists and isn’t the stuff of legend.  Would you believe some disreputable people will  try to sell you treasure maps that aren’t actually genuine.  *Shakes head.
Mr. Marx suggests seeking documentation recorded as closely to the time of the original event as possible and that old newspapers and books are a valuable resource.  If you’re just searching out potential historic sites, then he suggests ports, river banks, anywhere construction is moving earth, old homes, ghost towns, abandoned trash dumps from bygone days… Mr. Marx has oodles of suggestions and lists them by state.
The book of mine that best fits this theme is light paranormal/time travel romance Somewhere My Lassin which the hero and heroine seek an ancient relic with miraculous powers.   
Blurb for Somewhere My Lass:
Neil MacKenzie’s well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiancĂ© from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.
Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late.
The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?~
Any treasure hunters out there?  If so, happy hunting!

The only way to have a friend is to be one – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We reason deeply, when we forcibly feel—Mary Wollstonecraft

It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak and another to hear—Henry David Thoreau

It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards—Baltasar Gracian

We turn, not older with years, but newer every day—Emily Dickinson

Harmony is the inner cadence of contentment we feel when the melody of life is in tune—Sarah Ban Breathnach

To all, to each, a fair goodnight. And pleasing dreams, and slumber light!—Sir Walter Scott

There is one sure way to remind a child of their connection to life and other human beings and that they are important and valuable…it’s called a hug—Lauren Munger

My neighbor owns a blueberry farm. Great for me because I love, love, love blueberries. I can’t pick enough to satisfy my craving for them before the season, in our area, is over. The low bush blueberry flourishes in the forests of Maine, making Maine the largest producer of the fruit in the world. LOL, I might need to make a trip north.

A large portion of the calories in this food comes from sugars. One cup equals 84 calories. Yikes! I eat them like popcorn, so no wonder I’ve been fighting the scale.
The fruit does have awesome health benefits, however. Blueberries are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, and a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Blueberries are packed with antioxidant power, which comes from high levels of anthocyanins, a type of plant compound.

Also, Research has shown that blueberries have improved insulin sensitivity in overweight men and women, and lower blood pressure levels in pre-diabetic men and women without raising blood sugar. The key may be the anthocyanins, which have been shown in several laboratory-based animal and cell studies to cause blood vessels to relax and increase production of nitric oxide that helps in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Berries also have anti-inflammatory effects and may be a memory-protecting food. Good news for me, because some days I wonder where I left my head.

The resveratrol found in blueberries may help prevent macular degeneration, a disease of the retina and the leading cause of blindness in people older than 65, according to vision researchers. Like the cranberry, blueberries might help prevent bladder infections by preventing bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder.

Who knew this little blue fruit could do all this.

One of my favorite recipes is a blueberry custard pie. It is yummy, but remember, if you do try it, like any other fruit pie, it contains sugar and should be enjoyed with that in mind.

AJ’s Awesome Blueberry Custard

Preheat oven to 400°.

Make a pie crust for a deep dish 9 inch pie pan.

Mix together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 egg yolks (set whites aside).

Then add 2 1/2 cups of blueberries.

Beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of stiffen whites into mixture at a time. (DO NOT MIX- FOLD)
Pour slowly into unbaked pie crust and place in oven. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes then turn oven down to 375°. Bake until top is nice and brown and when you insert a knife it comes out clean.


Near Disaster Averted or Cat on Keyboard

Posted by Scarlet Pumpernickel | 9:16 PM | 20 comments »

While drinking my morning coffee I put my laptop down on the stool and the cat decided to sit on the keyboard. Big gray kitty, mean kitty, bad kitty, the same one who ran away from home resulting in destroyed mailboxes and climbed on the roof requiring rescue by hunky fireman. Well, the hunky fireman part wasn't too bad, but that mailbox cost me a mint.

So I grabbed the cat to shoo her off the keyboard, but she decided she quite liked sitting there and wasn't in the mood to move. Couldn't budge her with one hand and it took both hands, plus the DH's help to get the evil kitty off the keyboard.

Now, this is not a small kitten. No, Bonnie Blue is almost seven years old and although she is quite light, she has a heavy footstep apparently.

Cat banished and coffee finished, I reached for my laptop. This is the same computer that contains copies of all my WIPs and completed manuscripts, so you will naturally realize I would be very upset if anything happened to it. I pulled my lapdesk into place, and slid my finger tip across the touchpad ready to begin my morning work. Nothing, nada, zelch the cursor blinked evilly at me from the center of the computer screen. You can imagine the choice words that fell from my mouth as I tried in vain to get the computer going.

I yelled for the DH, he's my computer guru. "Honey, the cat killed the laptop."

He came instantly and reached for the computer. Nothing he did would get the thing to move. He threatened the cat with bodily harm, then said, "Well, I promised you a new one for your birthday, what kind do you want?"

I reached for my precious laptop, all my files were on it! I tried to shut it down, but couldn't get the cursor to move to click the needed button. I tried using the arrow keys, but they only worked on certain screens and none were helping. I hit the power button and counted to ten, the dang thing went into suspend mode. When I hit the power button again it came back in the same shape without rebooting. Aaargh, this was so not good.

DH took the battery loose and killed the computer. Then we replaced the battery and restarted it. I hit the f2 key and tried to restore. It came up and still the cursor would not move.

Beginning to panic, I rebooted it by unhooking it from the power cord to make it shut down. Battery has been useless since it was a new notebook more than four years ago. Same result, with the exception that the cursor moved for a second while the puter was loading. Hummmmmm.

Put the laptop back on the stool, which was what started this entire nightmare and went to my old laptop where I googled touchpad not working.

The first thing that popped up, I kid you not, was the title Cat and touchpad. I quickly scanned the article. Seems that there are keys that will shut junk off. One of those being a command to disable the touchpad. Scrolling down I found the code the cat had used to sabotage my laptop and quickly restored the touchpad function. All this while the DH had gone to take the garbage to the dump. By the time he returned I was happily surfing and reading email. Oh, yes and working on the WIP.

Anyone need a spoiled, evil blue Russian Cat?

“Mmmm, mmmm. Good!” That’s the first line of the Campbell’s Soup jingle…and it as the truth. While those plump, apple-cheeked pair calling themselves the Campbell’s Kids danced across the screen, I’d be slurping down my tomato soup and eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich.

“Mmmm, mmmm, Good!” My favorite might have been tomato soup but other soups held different memories. Take chicken and rice, for example. Whenever I came back from the dentist with a new filling, I was always served Campbell’s Chicken and Rice soup. Why? Because my dentist recommended it. “Give her something soft to eat tonight,” he’d always say. “Like chicken and rice soup.” So…when suppertime came, my mother would reach into the pantry and bring out that familiar red and white can… My father had a different memory of chicken and rice. That was what his mother always served when he or one of his siblings (of which there were five) were ill. Sore throats always demanded chicken and rice soup!

“That’s what Campbell’s Soups are…” Once there was just vegetable soup and then there was alphabet soup. We were always given vegetable soup. Now, there isn’t a difference. Alphabet soup always has alphabet pasta in it. Not being a beef-eater, I go for the vegetarian kind because apparently you can’t get vegetable soup with any meat in it except beef.

“Mmmm, mmmm, Good!” Below is my own recipe for vegetable soup (with or without beef). My granddaughter and I had some today, in my own Campbell’s Soup mugs. (NOTE: In either the 70’s or 80’s, there was some concern about the appearance of the Campbell’s Kids. Wanting to bolster a more healthy appearance for their young consumers, the couple.)

Grandma Toni’s Vegetable Soup

2 C garden peas

2 C whole kernel corn

1/5 fresh chopped onion

1 medium diced Irish potato

2 C diced tomatoes (for more spicy soup, use 1 can Ro-Tel Mild salsa tomatoes)

1 package stew beef (or one C chopped pork or pulled chicken)

2 C water

3 C vegetable juice

Seasonings: salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder to taste

NOTE: canned peas, corn, and tomatoes may be substituted for fresh vegetables)

Combine ingredients, season to taste, cook until vegetables are tender and meat is well-done. If using crock-pot or slow cooker, cook for 8 hours on “Slo” setting. Will make sight single servings.

Mama Mary Invades the Coast Guard

Can't you smell the salt air?

Loved the boats, up close and personal! I actually got on a smaller rescue boat and a larger one.

The Stars and Stripes always make my pulse race, especially when the wind whips our flag to show it off.

Don't you love the way this guy handles his weapon?

All right, I wasn't alone. Scarlet and a bunch of women were with me on the tour. Some of us even handled "mock" weapons and took tons of notes for our future books.

We watched the men and women who patrol our waters and get the bad guys. I was amazed at their knowledge and experience and their youth.

Look at the way he holds his gun. That's real. No fancy stuff, just control.

Do you know which branch of the US military is the oldest?

If you want more photos and information you must head over to Facebook and Mary

Sunday Smile

Posted by Autumn Jordon | 11:56 PM | , , , | 13 comments »

Lately, I’ve felt like a tiny dinghy riding the waves of a hurricane. One moment I’m on top with clear view of the shore and then two blinks later I’m facing four walls of obligations. Well the other day something helped.

I was sitting in a doctor’s office making a series of appointments for my dear husband. It was very busy, almost chaotic. The woman who was setting up his schedule (I’m going to refer to her as Tilly because I like the name and it fits her) was busy on the phone coordinating with another medical office when a patient came out from the examination rooms. Several had preceded her and each time Tilly had greeted them, with a smile, took their passport, and asked them to have a seat in the waiting room, and someone would call them in a few minutes. Since Tilly was busy, I turned and did as she’d done before. I greeted the woman, took her form, handed it to Tilly and asked the woman to have a seat and someone would be with her shortly.

In that moment, every clerical worker in the office day changed. They burst out laughing and while the atmosphere in the office had been clinically polite before, it lightened. Tilly offered me a job.

Sometimes offering a helping hand or a smile can make a difference in someone’s day and in your own.

That instant, Tilly’s smile, changed my day. Even now, recalling Tilly’s laughter makes me smile. Each light moment is worth its weight in gold.

So, have you shared a smile or laugh lately?

Welcome back Margery Scott.

Here is the promised excerpt from Emma's Wish

You're gonna love this one. You might need a hanky or some tissues.

Still grieving his wife’s death, Sam Jenkins needs a mother for his children. He can't build his ranch and care for three precocious youngsters alone. Emma Witherspoon has accepted the fact that she will never have a husband and children of her own, but that doesn't ease the ache in her heart. When Emma makes Sam an offer he can’t refuse, neither of them can foresee the changes in their lives because of two little words – “I do.”


Texas, 1880
"Please don't send us away, Pa." Six-year-old Nathan tugged on the rolled up sleeve of his father's shirt. "We'll be good. We promise. Don't we, Joseph?"

Beside him, his older brother nodded vigorously, then scrubbed at his tear-stained eyes with his grimy knuckles.

Studying the two boys, Becky's head bobbed in agreement, setting her pale blonde curls bouncing. She was too young to understand the significance of what Sam had just told them, but whatever her brothers did, Becky followed suit, as much as any three-year-old could.

Sam Jenkins raked his fingers through his hair. God, if there was any other way ... But there wasn't. It was the right thing to do. He'd done his best to look after the children and the ranch, if it could be called that - but it wasn't good enough. He was failing at both, and now he had to muster up the courage to do what was best for them, no matter how painful it was. Seeing the children lined up in front of him, looking at him as if he was some kind of monster, just about tore his heart out.

Leaning over, he picked Becky up and settled her on his lap. Her pudgy arms reached up around his neck, and she planted a loud smacking kiss on his cheek.

Swallowing painfully against the grief choking him, he took Nathan's small hand. His gaze rested on the calluses on the little boy's palm. Dammit, his hands shouldn't already show signs of hard labor. Youngsters shouldn't have to work that hard.

This was exactly why he'd made the decision, the decision the children hated him for right now. But they'd thank him later. He had to believe that.

He was doing this for their own good. Sam had to remind himself of that every single day. By sending them back east to live with his wife's parents, he was giving them the life they deserved, a life of privilege and wealth. But even though his reasons made sense, he couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that he was making a huge mistake.

"It's just for a little while." He tried to sound convincing, but the promise rang false even to his own ears. "Right now, I need to work too hard--"

"We can help," Joseph volunteered. "I'm almost a man. You said so yourself when Ma died."

When Ma died. That said it all. Their lives had fallen apart when Catherine died six months before. The children had lost their mother, and he'd lost the only woman he'd ever loved.

"I did say that, didn't I?" he asked, ruffling the boy's hair. "And I meant it, too."

Catherine had always called Joseph her little man, and a melancholy smile twitched at Sam's lips at the recollection. He'd called him that, too, as Joseph had stood beside him at the cemetery when they laid Catherine to rest. Joseph had stood in the rain, his head held high, determined not to cry even though his eyes brimmed with tears and his chin quivered throughout the short service.

"I can work--" Joseph put in.

"Me too--"

"Me work--" Becky smiled up at him, the dimples in her cheeks and the clear blue gaze in her eyes bringing back the image of Catherine's angelic face.

God, couldn't they see how badly he wanted to keep them with him? They were all he had left, and sending them away was slowly killing him. But they had no way of knowing that. They only knew they were being sent to live with people they'd never met, in a place they'd never seen.

"Joseph," he said, trying to make his tone as stern as possible. "I can't keep you here right now. Your grandparents are looking forward to seeing you. So I need you to be a man now and promise me you'll take care of the younger ones. That's the way it has to be."

It's available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble and Allromance

If you didn't read Friday's post, read it and learn more Margery Scott.

I invited my friend Margery Scott to start her blogging tour with us. She said yes. How cool is that? When I asked her why she chose to write western novels, since she lives in Canada, this is what she said.

I was born in Scotland in a small village that dates back to the 1200's, so I suppose history is in my blood. As a little girl, I heard about Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, not Wyatt Earp and Jesse James. I listened to bagpipes, not fiddles, and I spoke with a brogue, not a twang.

Yet since the day my parents bought our first black-and-white TV when we moved to Canada, tales of cowboys, cattle drives, and wagon trains heading west have fascinated me.

Every weekend, you'd find me in front of the TV watching stories of those men and women (and animals) who tamed the wild frontier - Roy Rogers, Rin Tin Tin, The Lone Ranger, Zorro … okay, he wasn't a cowboy and he didn't live in Texas, but he was a hero just the same.

And Annie Oakley, the only female in the wild west who got her own show. Imagine my surprise and excitement on Christmas morning when I found an Annie Oakley cowgirl outfit and a Wild Bill Hickok double holster set under the tree. (Note the holster in the photo. Those guns rarely left my side for quite some time J.) This was in the days when the giving of guns wasn't frowned upon, even though giving them to a girl definitely raised a few eyebrows.

What was it about that time in history that attracted me even as a girl? The danger? The bigger-than-life characters? And as I got older, the hunky men with big guns J?

I still don't have an answer, and I'm still a sucker for a good western movie or novel, especially if it has a bit of romance and a happy ending.

I'm still intrigued by the stories of ordinary people who headed out into the wilderness to build a new life knowing they'd likely never again see the friends and family they left behind, and not knowing if they'd even survive the journey.

Yes, we left the only home I'd ever known and travelled half way around the world to settle in a new country. But my parents' journey was nothing compared to what those pioneers had to face - weather, sickness and attacks, not to mention the basic hazards of crossing mountains and rivers to reach their destination.

I couldn't have done it. I couldn't have braved the unknown the way they did. I'm not brave enough. What about you?

Margery has taken the Indie publishing plunge. Take a look at her two novels.

Wild Wyoming Wind

Sparks fly when lawman Jake Langford takes over Maddie Boone's homestead to trap an escaped killer. Fiercely independent since the death of her abusive husband, Maddie wants nothing more than to be left alone to build a new life in the Wyoming wilderness. But living in close quarters with Jake exposes emotions far more threatening than the killer watching them, forcing her to question the past, and eventually, to trust in the future.

Here's an excerpt from Wild Wyoming Wind
Wyoming, 1880
"Get off my land!" Maddie Boone's finger trembled on the trigger of the Winchester in her hand, but she held the barrel steady.
The stranger drew his roan-colored stallion to a halt. Leaning on the pommel of his saddle, he met her gaze. His horse whinnied and shuffled, raising a cloud of dust in the drought-ridden yard.
"I told you to get out," Maddie repeated, adjusting the rifle's aim until it rested in the centre of his broad chest. "I'm not about to tell you again."
"Are you Mrs. Boone?" he asked.
She didn't answer. If the man didn't know who she was, she saw no reason to tell him.
"I'm looking for Caleb Boone," he went on. "Is this his place?"
Looking for Caleb? Funny, the man didn't look like most of Caleb's friends. He was far too clean, for one thing. And even from where she stood on the porch of the cabin, she could see his clothes, though creased, weren't stained or torn. And he sounded sober. Nevertheless, she wanted nothing to do with anybody from Caleb's past. "What do you want him for?"
"It's urgent."
"Well, he's not here," Maddie said. "Now get out before I fill you full of lead."
Maddie hoped the stranger didn't hear the nervous trill in her voice. She'd never actually shot a man, but there was a first time for everything. She'd had a lot of 'first times' in the past few weeks, and no doubt she'd have many more before she was finished.
To show she meant business, she raised the sight of the rifle to her eye and clicked the hammer back with her thumb.
"When will he be back?" the stranger asked, as if he wasn't the least bit worried about the possibility of being shot, even though she did notice he was sitting a little straighter in the saddle.
Should she tell him the truth? For a moment or two, she thought about it, then decided that it was none of his business. She shrugged. "I don't know."
"Then I'll wait, if you don't mind."
Damn right she minded! She wanted none of Caleb's friends anywhere near her homestead. Besides, he'd be waiting until doomsday before Caleb came back. "You can wait as long as you like," she said, "as long as you do it someplace else. Not on my land." Her curiosity got the better of her. "What do you want to see him about, anyway?"
"I apologize, ma'am," the stranger said, the corners of his lips lifting in the beginnings of a smile. "I should've introduced myself properly. The name's Langford. Jake Langford. I'm a deputy U.S. marshal."
The law.
Maddie couldn't help the bitter laugh that escaped from her lips. Where was the law a few weeks ago, when she could have used some help?

It's available through Amazon and Smashwords

Emma's Wish

Still grieving his wife’s death, Sam Jenkins needs a mother for his children. He can't build his ranch and care for three precocious youngsters alone. Emma Witherspoon has accepted the fact that she will never have a husband and children of her own, but that doesn't ease the ache in her heart. When Emma makes Sam an offer he can’t refuse, neither of them can foresee the changes in their lives because of two little words – “I do.”

Come back Saturday and read the excerpt.

It's available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble and Allromance

If you don't comment, you don't stand a chance of winning anything, so please comment or ask Margery a question. She might be in a generous mood.