Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Father's Western

Blast from the Past

I originally published this on Live Journal a couple of years ago. Someone commented on it recently and I thought I'd repost it.

Give my dad a weak cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle, and he was a happy man. He'd work on the puzzle while watching TV, in mid-conversation, even at the dinner table if he could get away with it. It was his retreat from the mayhem that is family life.

He had hearing problems dating back to his service in the Navy. Being half deaf myself, I sympathize. Sometimes it's easier to retreat than to try and engage in conversation when you can't hear it properly. I'd drift off into other worlds, making up stories in my head. Dad escaped into the daily crossword puzzle and his books.

I've been thinking of Dad a lot lately for a couple of reasons.

One reason is perspective. It's been three years since Dad died and I can now get beyond the grief of losing my parent. It took me about three years to be able to reflect on my mother too. About that to write about losing my sister, then my Aunt Yang.

Lately, with the publication of Under A Texas Star, I've been thinking about all of them and how much I would have liked them to see my book. Mum and Aunty Yang would have been proud, and Joanne pleased--no matter which of my books got published first. I think Dad would have been tickled that it was the western.

Dad introduced me to Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey in my teens. He loved Maverick and Bonanza on TV, and John Wayne's cowboy movies. In his later years, when too much noise and violence upset him, he'd bury his nose in western romances. Under A Texas Star would have been right up his alley.

But first he'd have to finish the daily crossword puzzle.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunny with a Chance of Free

By the time the sun was visible on the horizon, they were on their way. Though she was sore in places she didn't like to mention, riding that early had its benefits. The landscape was beautiful in the dawn light. Later in the day, the sun would bleach the color out of the scenery. For now, everything was vibrant and the scent of sage wafted on the breeze. 
Ahead of them lay the Sacramento mountain range. Around them, the plateau was so flat Marly could see the dust of riders far in the distance.
Under A Texas Star

Over on the National Crime Writing Blog, the current topic is the weather. Weather in a novel is like background music in a movie. It acts as a mirror or counterpoint to the action. Extreme weather can also be a plot point. Or, as in in the excerpt above, it can be set dressing - giving the reader a sense of time and place.
Speaking of the weather, our three-day forecast (Oct 22-24/2012) for Under A Texas Star is sunny and FREE on Kindle.


Disguised as a boy, Marly joins a handsome Texas Ranger in the hunt for a con man and they must bring the fugitive to justice before giving up the masquerade and giving in to their passion.

When Marly Landers is fooled by con man Charlie Meese, she's determined to bring him to justice--even if it means dressing up as a boy and setting off across the plains to find him.

Texas Ranger Jase Strachan is also after Meese, for crimes committed in Texas. He joins forces with the young boy in a journey that takes them to Fortuna, where a murder interrupts their mission. Jase is duty bound to find the killer, no matter the cost.

Under the Texas stars, Marly and Jase are drawn together by circumstances beyond their control, yet fate plots to tear them apart. Will Marly finally get her man?

"Marly Landers, in Under a Texas Star is a tough as nails, smart as a tack young woman who shines brightly with her grit and compassion. She is the type of character you want to continue reading about even after the story ends."
Wendy E. Thomas, Allbooks Reviews

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Me and Death

Dressed to Kill?

When I was a child, Death scared the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of me. His skeletal form would appear in my bedroom, usually sitting on my dresser mirror.

My mother told me it was just a shadow. Yeah. Right. How did she explain the tiger in my room the night before? My Nana shot the tiger with a loaded finger. Not that I really remember the tiger. I just took my Nana's word for it. For all I know, she was the one who was dreaming, not me.

Death I remember. I wasn't yet four years old, but I knew that Death visiting your bedroom wasn't a good sign. I knew my age because it was when I was four that Death stopped freaking me out.

I was having my tonsils taken out and was convinced the anesthesiologist was trying to kill me. The big, black, foul swelling mask was going to suck the life out of me. I fought bravely -- viciously -- to no avail. They fitted the monster over my face and the next thing I knew, I was floating above the operating table, watching them lean over my body.

There are details I can still recall: the large, light shining down on my body; the white tiles that went up the walls; silvery glints from instruments; and Death, sitting on the air across from me. This time he wasn't just rattling around in his bones, he was dressed to kill in a trench coat and fedora. The model of well-dressed skeleton, I found him reassuring. Without saying anything, he let me know I didn't have to worry. He wasn't there to collect.

I have since learned that the anesthesia used back then often gave patients hallucinations. They'd wake up with stories of seeing dead relatives or being invited into the light. Be that as it may, why would a little girl hallucinate a skeleton in a trench coat and fedora?

My recurring nightmare about being shot by a black-clad gunslinger made more sense. I used to sneak upstairs (our bedrooms were in the basement) and listen to my parents watch Rawhide, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. I'd sit in front of the heat register in the hall and pretend it was a fireplace. If I felt really bold, I'd edge over to the doorway and sneak a peek. Mostly, I'd just listen and let my imagination fill in the details.

If Death had showed up in a black Stetson and spurs, I would have understood. The trench coat and fedora could only be a portent of things to come.