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Monday, July 21, 2014

"PRETTIEST LITTLE HORSE THIEF..." -- An excerpt and Give-Away -- by GAIL L. JENNER

Being a part of the Prairie Rose Anthology, Lassoing a Bride, has been a lot of fun! I've always enjoyed writing short stories and short memoir pieces, but this is the first western or historical short story anthology in which I've participated. I have only sold a handful of stories in the last few years (some children's stories and a couple of women's stories), but it's a genre I find challenging and satisfying...

Perhaps in part because, as a former English teacher, short story was a form I loved to teach and to have students pursue. It's not easy writing a short story; word selection becomes much more important. There is no "time" to wander down rabbit trails if description or conflict takes a giant turn! The story must remain true to its central character and his/her internal or external conflict. Every scene must move the story forward, even as it must reveal something powerful about the character and his/her struggles. No random situations relevant here...

Playing with the theme of an unwilling bride, I knew my heroine would have to become "trapped" by circumstance...and knowing that took me into all kinds of possible and wild scenarios. I also knew she would have to be strong and resist the notion of marriage. She had to be strong, too, so that when she "fell" for our flawed hero, she'd fall hard! That's when the story writing really became fun and the pages filled themselves. A great feeling when you have an approaching deadline.

Unfortunately, sometimes, with novels, the deadline looms but the story begins to wane and then you, as author, must dig DEEP to find the motivation to keep moving forward. I didn't have that issue with composing "Prettiest Little Horse Thief".

For that reason, I hope to write more stories and am so delighted that Prairie Rose Publishing is encouraging its authors to submit to its upcoming anthologies. I am delighted to do so if only because of the energy writing them has generated.

In addition, I feel quite honored to be among some wonderful authors...The stories in Lassoing a Bride are varied and delightfully entertaining. One of the reader/reviewers wrote: "Wonderful stories from five wonderful storytellers. These authors know how to pull you in and keep you reading. PRETTIEST LITTLE HORSE THIEF by Gail L. Jenner, UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS by Sarah J. McNeal, NO LESS THAN FOREVER by Tracy Garrett, THE BANK ROBBER'S LAMENT by Sara Barnard and THE BRIDE AND THE BADGE by Livia J. Washburn are all exciting western romances that will stick with you and make you want to read them again and again." 

Here is an excerpt from "Prettiest Little Horse Thief"; hopefully this tidbit will whet the appetite for more:

As water pooled around her ankles, Rebecca felt a refreshing chill. She needed the shock of the water to clear her mind.
            It had been another hard day. After three months of struggling to get back on her feet, it seemed there should be a silver lining somewhere, but once more, it had eluded her.
            She stepped further into the stream, the water encircling the lacy edges of her knickers. She scooped up a handful and splashed it across her shoulder, gasping at the sudden cold.  
The sale had not gone well. Shih-chai, or Grandfather, her old Navajo ranch hand, had warned her she’d be disappointed, saying that the men who had conspired against Frank were determined to break her.
She hadn’t listened, but try as she could, no one wanted the two mares she had taken to the sale. The dozen men straddling the board fence had studied the pair of bays before regaling her with every reason they weren’t worth the asking price.
            Dent, a loud-mouthed cowboy who prided himself on his natural ability as a wrangler, had been the most vitriolic. “You may be the prettiest horse thief in this part of the country,” he spat, “but that’s all you are. Frank never paid a dime for anything, and he probably stole these two. Ask anybody. He owed ev’rybody money, which means these cayooses ain’t really yours to sell.”
            She’d stood her ground, flashing him a contemptuous look, then, turning to a second cowboy, remarked, “They’re hardy, and worth double what I’m asking.”
The sandy-haired cowboy had only shrugged.
After that no one offered her anything, so she returned home with two mares and an empty purse.
The sound of hoof beats against dry earth startled her. Quickly, she scrambled up the rocky embankment, but not quickly enough.
Three riders approached
Dent, sitting astride a small Appaloosa, grinned down at her. On either side of him rode men she didn’t recognize. Both let out a whoop when they realized she was standing in front of them with only her thin undergarments covering her pale flesh.
“I came thinkin’ we could strike a bargain,” crooned Dent as he wheeled off his horse. “But I never bargained on this.” His eyes swept over her with cold and hungry admiration. “Yep,” he whispered, “you gotta be the prettiest horse thief I ever seen.”
Rebecca steeled herself. What a fool she’d been to think that it was safe to disrobe in the middle of the day. Instinctively, she reached for the dress she’d thrown over a bramble bush.
Dent reached it first. Raising it to his face, he inhaled. “I do believe I smell— what? Sage?”
She wrenched it from his fingers. “Why are you here?”
Dent looked around as if thinking someone might suddenly appear out of nowhere. Unfortunately, Rebecca had left Shih-chai back at the barn, sneaking past him so that he couldn’t stop her from slipping down to the stream. Now she regretted her foolhardy decision.
Would she never stop being so impulsive?
“I want those two mares,” snapped Dent.
Rebecca held her tongue; she had to think before she got herself into more trouble. “What are you willing to pay?”
Dent chuckled. “I ain’t paying a dime. I told you, Frank owed ev’rybody something, and he owed me more than thirty bucks.”
Dent stiffened. “You callin’ me a liar? Seems to me, even a pretty little thief better tread softly…” He took a step closer, his glance sending a sharp warning through her.

 As a thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, I'd like to offer a free download of the PRP anthology, Lassoing a Bride. A winner will be selected on Wednesday and the announcement will be made here on the blog. I will also contact the winner personally!

Gail L. Jenner is the author of the WILLA Award-winning novel, ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS, recently re-released by Prairie Rose Publications. Like Rebecca in "Prettiest Little Horse Thief," Liza Ralston is a young woman -- determined and independent -- who must learn how to survive while pitted against the backdrop of the infamous and little-known historic Marias Massacre. It was recently ranked #13,400 on's top list of kindle books! A big thank you to Prairie Rose for their support of historical fiction! In addition, Gail has coauthored five nonfiction histories. For more, visit:  or


  1. Gail,

    I also love short stories, reading and writing them. This story is no exception to the kind of stories I love. We are lucky that PRP came into existance, for there is a need for this kind of story.

    The excerpt is a winner and of course anyone who reads it will want to know more. They will get the answer and so much more with this and the other stories in the anthology. Yipee! Doris

    1. Thanks, Doris! "Prettiest Little Horse Thief" was fun to write.... and I'm enjoying the brainstorming for the next story I'm writing. YES, we do need more western romance. I'm a volunteer librarian at our local library (and a volunteer museum curator) -- and I know that a lot of people are enjoying short stories. Perhaps because people have less time these days. Books on CD are also very popular! Perhaps another venue for PRP??? :-) Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Gail I really enjoyed reading your excerpt. It keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how Rebecca will be able to hold on to her two horses what with that rascal Dent claiming Frank owed him thirty dollars. I've heard it said by others that its harder to write a short story than an entire novel since the story is so condensed and you have to be able to keep the story going without a lot of descriptions. Looks like you've mastered the craft very well. Congratulations.

    1. Thank you, Barbara! It's fun when the reader is hooked :-) I think part of the challenge of writing any piece, short or long, is getting a hook that connects with the reader.... I tried to imagine being Rebecca. How would a woman respond when she's faced with circumstances, esp. in those days, that are out of her control and require an extra amount of grit! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Gail, I remember when I first read The Prettiest Little Horse Thief. Dent just made my skin crawl. You did a great job of making him the creepiest villain! I could just see Bruce Dern's smile when I read any scene with him in it. Really enjoyed this short story of yours and hope to see more in the future!

    1. Thanks, Cheryl! I enjoyed exploring the characters in this story. Dent was the kind of man every woman hates (or should hate!)....I found him disgusting, too. Never thought of Bruce Dern -- he does play a good bad guy :-) Thanks for stopping by...

  5. Thanks, Cheryl! I enjoyed exploring the characters in this story. Dent was the kind of man every woman hates (or should hate!)....I found him disgusting, too. Never thought of Bruce Dern -- he does play a good bad guy :-) Thanks for stopping by...

  6. I read Prettiest Little Horse Thief and thought it was such a terrific story. I wondered if she was ever going to come round. LOL I love a good villain. A villain really brings out the best in the hero and heroine, so the meaner and creepier they are, the better I like it.
    I love writing short stories. Even though they can't have a subplot and a writer can't go into backstory, they can be deeply moving.
    All the best to you, Gail. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It was fun to write. I agree that it's difficult to incorporate a subplot or much backstory. That's why it's fun to add secondary characters who can flesh out the story as well as provide "relief" from the main characters' dilemma. And yes, I've heard it said that the strength of the villain should match the strength of the hero..... :-) Hope Dent managed to do that!