My first few months as a bona-fide fiction author have been quite a whirlwind. Between December 2013 and June 2014, I saw the publication of five 10,000-word short stories. Creating that much usable content in so short a time is a spritely clip for anyone, but for someone who works one full-time job and one part-time job—and, for a while, was caring for an invalid—the pace is a mite grueling.
I mention the above only to let other authors and aspiring authors know the myth of the bleary-eyed writer who exists on coffee and adrenaline while toiling away in hermit-like seclusion is not a myth. Such writers exist all over the world. Call us obsessive-compulsive, self-destructive, or just plain idiotic…but also call us happy. There’s nothing like wrestling ill-behaved fictional people into submission and seeing the results in print. Creating stories of all lengths fuels our very existence.
It’s true, you know: Some of us write not because we can, but because not writing would represent an emotional and intellectual death sentence.
The first novella-length story to emerge from the marathon writing jag was “Peaches,” which—like a first child—always will occupy a special place in my heart. Originally published in Prairie Rose Publications’ debut anthology Wishing for a Cowboy, it’s now available as a standalone read with a gorgeous cover created by PRP co-founder Livia Washburn Reasoner. Cheryl Pierson, PRP’s other co-founder, proved to be every author's dream as an editor. (Please buy a copy of Peaches. I’m begging you. Only if everyone on the planet succumbs to my totally self-serving plea will I ever be able to quit the day job and save what little remains of my sanity. At only 99 cents, it's a bargain. Really!)
Running a ranch and fending off three meddlesome aunts leaves Whit McCandless no time, and even less patience, for the prickly new schoolmarm’s greenhorn carelessness. The teacher needs educating before somebody gets hurt.
Ruth Avery can manage her children and her school just fine without interference from some philistine of a rancher. If he’d pay more attention to his cattle and less to her affairs, they’d both prosper.
He didn’t expect to need rescuing. She never intended to fall in love.
Wishing for a Cowboy remains a source of great pride for everyone at PRP. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, leaving all of us feeling a bit like Sally Field, seemingly awe-struck when she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in 1984’s Places in the Heart: “You like me. You really like me.” (The quote is erroneous, but it’s punchier than what Field actually said.)
I’m more disposed to echo Sean Penn’s parody of Field’s quote when he won the 1996 Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead in Dead Man Walking: “You tolerate me. You really tolerate me.”
“Charlie’s Pie,” Livia J. Washburn’s story in WFAC, won the 2014 Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction. Considering her story competed head-to-head with one penned by legendary western author Jory Sherman, Livia’s win was quite an honor, and one she richly deserved. (Charlie’s Pie also is available now as a single.)
I hope to see the other four anthology stories I wrote over the past six months published as standalones, too. I’m equally proud of those. Please indulge me while I mention them.
Hearts and Spurs
His partner’s grisly death destroyed Texas Ranger Quinn Barclay. Cashiered for drunkenness and refusal to follow orders, he sets out to fulfill his partner’s dying request, armed only with a saloon girl’s name.
Sister María Tomás thought she wanted to become a nun, but five years as a postulant have convinced her childhood dreams aren’t always meant to be. At last ready to relinquish the temporary vows she never should have made, she begs the only man she trusts to collect her from a mission in the middle of nowhere.
When the ex-Ranger’s quest collides with the ex-nun’s plea in a burned-out border town, unexpected love blooms among shared memories of the dead man who was a brother to them both.
Too bad he was also the only man who could have warned them about the carnage to come.
“The Worst Outlaw in the West”in Lassoing a Groom
Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.
“The Big Uneasy”in Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride
To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing.
Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.
“Making Peace”in Cowboy Cravings
After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting. (Spicy.)
Peaches and ten other short, holiday-themed reads—plus three full-length novels and two boxed sets—are part of Prairie Rose Publications’ Christmas in July event. The complete list is available here.
Because I’m grateful to every reader who’s ever been kind enough (or brave enough) to give a debut author a chance, I’ll give away a copy of Peaches to two folks who comment today. Please don't forget to leave your email address.
Thank all of y’all for stopping by!