Thomas and Pru. Cheyenne Dog Soldier and half-black Southerner. He has lived a hard, violent life. She’s an educated lady. Both are caught between two races, each seeking a place in the challenging world of westward expansion and post-Civil War turbulence. Their only common ground is the spark between them that doesn’t die. But is it enough to overcome the vast differences between them and give them the strength to forge a new life together?
Here's an excerpt:
“We’ll get on the first train headed west and—”
“No, Prudence. We will not speak of that now.” Thomas walked to the bureau. He did not want to hear grand plans or listen to more promises. He did not want talk at all. Hoping to avoid it, he poured water into the bowl for washing then shrugged out of his coat. He saw her face reflected in the mirror above the bureau and knew by her expression that the harshness of his tone had hurt her. But how could he tell her he did not want to talk because he was afraid of what she might say? If she made promises tonight, then changed her mind and got on the train tomorrow, that would be the end of it. And he was not ready for that.
In silence, he pulled his shirt over his head. He felt her watching as he splashed cold water on his face and neck and chest then wiped it away with his shirt.
One more night. That was all he wanted. If there were to be no more tomorrows for them, he wanted at least this one last night with her. But his pride would not let him say that, or admit his weakness for this woman who had walked away from him so many times.
Weary from his long ride, he stood at the bureau, head drooping, his hands braced on the wooden top. He watched water drip from his hair and felt the silence press around him. Oh, Prudence. How had it come to this?
He heard her rise from the bed. Lifting his gaze, he watched in the mirror as she came up behind him and slid her arms around his waist. Her touch sent a shiver through him, and he closed his eyes so she would not see the need in his eyes.
He felt the warm smoothness of her cheek against his back, the soft press of breasts against his damp skin. A hot trail of silent tears rolled down his spine, and his own eyes stung. “Will you ever forgive me, Thomas?”
The ice around his heart cracked. Resolve shattered at his feet. With a groan, he turned and pulled her into his arms. He couldn’t stop shaking. Couldn’t stop the burning behind his eyes.
“Heme’oone, sweetheart,” he whispered in a rough voice. “I will always forgive you. But tonight, we will not speak of the troubles between us.” He leaned down to kiss the tear tracks from her cheeks. “The time for words is past.”
In between her years as a mother, teacher, commercial artist, reluctant collection agent and surly secretary, Kaki fooled around with writing. Finally, after twenty-five years of procrastination, she sent her first manuscript out into world. It won the 2011 RWA RITA Award for Best First Book, and she was off and running. Now she has eight books in print, one digital novella, an anthology and has just finished book 9, which ends the Heartbreak Creek series. She and her husband are happily retired on a mountaintop in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, doing whatever they feel like doing—which in her case is writing and enjoying the wildlife, gardening, and thinking up stuff for her husband to do. It’s a grand life.
Please visit Kaki at https://www.facebook.com/kakiwarner or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She loves hearing from readers. All of her books are available in print or digital at major book retailers and on-line distributors, as well as the Penguin/Berkley website. Check out Kaki's author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kaki-Warner/e/B002M91GRI
E.E.: What has surprised you the most about being published?
KAKI: That nothing has really changed. After twenty-five years dabbling with the same story, endless rewrites, and tweaks, I was convinced that first book was a story worth telling and I’d done the best job I could of doing that. So a month after I sent it out and I got an offer from Berkley/Penguin, I was delighted, of course, but not totally surprised that it had sold. Sound cocky? Why not? I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I’d spent over two decades honing my craft. I had done my research and listened to my critics and learned my characters inside and out. That’s what any committed writer should do. But not every committed writer meets with success. I knew I was very lucky that my manuscript had fallen on the right desk at the right time and the editor who read it was in a receptive mood. So there were no earth-changing changes to being published, other than to find myself suddenly very busy, churning out a book every six months, and getting sucked into promotional BS that I have no aptitude for. But sometimes at night, a thought comes that jars me fully awake, and I realize that I actually did it—I actually got published by the biggest paperback publisher in the world and they keep asking for more. That’s huge. Especially for a granny who went on Medicare the same year her first book came out. Nothing beats validation, no matter how late it comes.
E.E.: What would you say is your most interesting quirk?
KAKI: I don’t cry. Oh, I can summon a tear or five every year or so, but I’m just not a crier. It’s quirky because most romance writers I know are very emotional people, which really enhances their work. Not me. So I have a dear friend, and world-class cry baby, who keeps me on track with the boo-hoo stuff. But I make up for that failing with a really wicked sense of humor. Oddly, I think it’s the humor in my books that helps them stand out from all the other well-written books in my genre. Life can be pretty ridiculous, and people are always struggling to get it right. Which can create some funny, awkward, tender moments in between rolling around in the hay and shooting bad guys. At least, I think so.
E.E.: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
KAKI: Yes and not much. Many reviewers can impart excellent information about what worked or didn’t work. Of course, that’s only one opinion. But if it forms a consensus, I definitely take note. Personal reader preferences, I discard—some reviewers want more sex, less about children, less violence, etc. But if they say I treated a subject unfairly, or harped on one theme too much, or used offensive terms, I listen. Doesn’t mean I’ll change anything, but I’ll be more aware of it from then on. A few reviews have made my day, but none have ruined it. My readers have mostly been very kind and I really appreciate that.
E.E.: Is writing or story-telling easier for you?
KAKI: Writing and editing is easier. Plotting has always been more difficult for me. And I LOVE developing characters. I also try to put in other elements in my books—historical events, natural events (avalanche, flood, fire, etc.), and a very strong sense of setting. Between all that and the characters (who can be pretty pushy at times) the plot often gets shoved to the back burner. I really have to watch that, especially since I’m a “pantser” and don’t write from a disciplined outline. So far, it’s worked, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep all those elements corralled.
E.E.: What sound or noise do you love?
KAKI: No way can I narrow that down to one. Owls hooting, coyote serenades, distant train whistles, birdsong (especially meadowlarks), babies laughing, string music, the sound of my husband breathing beside me at night.
E.E.: What turns you off like nothing else?
KAKI: When I find myself using adverbs to create emotion. (“…she said, achingly.”) It never works. Just weakens the whole thing. Or when I overwrite, by telling the reader exactly what the character thinks after every word is exchanged. This is especially true in dialogue. If you interrupt every spoken line with a paragraph of introspection, it really slows the scene. Think of Ocean’s Eleven. Brad Pitt and Clooney are in a bar. Pitt is watching some sports thing on a TV when Clooney comes in. Throughout the entire conversation they never make eye contact and Pitt never speaks (I hope I’m getting this mostly right). Anyway Clooney starts watching TV and says, “We might need more men.” No response. “Yeah, I should probably get more men.” No response. “You think we need more.” No response. “Okay. I’ll go get more men.” Then he leaves. Look at all the information you get in that one short scene. It’s a lesson I have to re-acquaint myself with all too often.
E.E.: You've been nominated for a RITA Award for Where the Horses Run. Are you picking out a dress for the ceremony?
KAKI: No, I’m not picking out dresses for the Rita Awards Ceremony. Sadly, I won’t be attending, but will be at home, nursing my new knee and listening to the results on Twitter.
E.E.: Where did Thomas and Pru come from?
KAKI: Actually, they began as secondary characters—Thomas to provide a foil for Declan Brodie, and Pru, to help round out the characterization of her sister, Edwina. From the first, they seemed to have taken on lives of their own, and insisted on being in all of the other books, as well. Over the years, I have received queries and requests from readers to give T & P their own book, but it wasn’t until I had finished WHERE THE HORSES RUN (in which Thomas plays a major role) that I decided to give it a go. So much of their story had already been told in the other books, I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough left to write about. But as is often the way, a new character showed up who provided the perfect spark to get them going and add a new layer and depth to their relationship.
E.E.: How do you feel about the series ending?
KAKI: Both sad and glad. I love all these characters, but I needed to let them go so I could move on. I tried for closure in the epilog, but hope I didn’t go too far by putting it 65 years into the future. I wanted to let readers know how everything ended up and show that the town continued on even though the principal players are no longer there. Some readers will prefer to have the characters live on in their imaginations. If so, I hope they will avoid the epilog. It won’t change Thomas and Pru’s story either way.
Today, Kaki will give away two autographed copies of HOME BY MORNING. Just leave a comment and enter the raffle below.
Have you ever found characters in a book so compelling you couldn't forget them and had to know how their story ended? Which ones and why?