Blast to the Past: The Marine's Last Defense

For the Love of a Dog
You might have seen this post last week on Just Romantic Suspense.
I've included more pictures.

I’m not certain I’ve ever shared why I wrote THE MARINE’S LAST DEFENSE. My cousin’s son shared with me that the only thing that saved his sanity after serving in Iraq was his dog. He had severe PTSD with night terrors. The stroking of his dog calmed him and helped him through his transition back into society. I also had a fan tell me a story of a woman who married Marines hoping they would get killed in action (that’s horrible, right?). But if they didn’t die, she’d divorce them and have a guaranteed income from the government (some rules just don’t make sense).
 Anyway… Originally, the dog in the book was a mutt named BEAR. My daughter was at Baylor (Go BEARS!) and knew her next dog would be named Bear. It sounded cool. Then my physically challenged rescue died suddenly. Dallas had seizures we thought were under control with medication. But at eight months, she had a massive seizure that led to what a stroke (we assume). I love all my dogs, but Dallas was special and deserved to be a character in a book. Along with the gratitude to those rescuers who look past physical handicaps and love the dog.

It would have been very easy for the Hickory Creek Animal Shelter to euthanize a small puppy that was blind in one eye, too small, and had a skin/fur impediment caused from the trauma to her body. But they didn’t. When they showed her to me…I was in love with her fearlessness and curiosity. She was perfect for Jake, my lost Marine. But it did make it very hard to write the book while I was crying and mourning.
 Or check this one out here.

This Excerpt from THE MARINE’S LAST DEFENSE is when Jake first meets Dallas:

“You go see if you can find that ghost,” his partner had ordered when they’d arrived. He’d leaned his head against the headrest and shut his eyes. “I’m going to keep the heater running on these old bones, partner. You love the cold, don’t cha, partner?
“Sure, Owens. I could stay out here all freakin’ day.” Okay, maybe his reply had been a slight exaggeration. Then again, he hadn’t actually replied, just mumbled after he’d left the car. He would continue to accept the late shifts, practical jokes and crank calls, just like he had this morning.
“I’m a freakin’ machine.” No one could break down the machine at work.
The ghost was probably a drunk trying to get out of the snowfall, but it had to be checked out. What if the call was just a staged joke? Could Owens have arranged for a “ghost” to be at the spillway?
It was the perfect setup. Someone could pop out of the bushes, try to surprise him and he might even lose his footing. “I will not fall and have that humiliation blasted across the internet. I’ll never hear the end of it.” Those guys knew he’d be the one out here verifying ghosts don’t exist. And he wouldn’t put it past any of them to have cooked up this entire charade.
As long as they dished it out, he’d take it. The cold, searching for a ghost, whatever, he’d keep at the job. He wanted the job. He had nothing else but the job. He wouldn’t let it slip through his fingers like the rest of his life.
An early-morning search of the underbrush around White Rock Lake beat picking up Friday-night drunks from Deep Ellum any night of the week. Homicide detectives wore civilian clothes, a definite improvement from the street cops. Man, he was glad to be out of a uniform. Any uniform.
His years as a Marine M.P. didn’t seem to make a difference to his coworkers. Maybe they thought he was more qualified to deal with drunks than legitimate homicides. If they only knew what he wanted to forget.
The beam from the flashlight reflected off a pair of red eyes. The animal didn’t bolt. Jake took a step closer to the fence and heard the low whine of a dog.
A black Labrador was under the brush on the other side of the six-foot security fence. Located just below a large yellow-and-orange danger sign, warning that the lake’s spillway was nearby.
The leash must have tangled around a limb, pinning the dog to the cold February ground. The pup yelped, whining louder, visibly shaking from the cold. He dropped back to the ground, obviously tired from his struggle for freedom.
“Hang on, now. How’d you get over there?” Just to his right the section of fence was raised off the ground, easy enough for a dog or person to crawl under.
Jake clicked off the light and dropped it in his pocket. Going over the icy fence was a lot cleaner than crawling under like the dog had. He shook the chain-link fence, verifying it could hold his weight, and scaled it in a few seconds, landing on the spillway side with both feet firm, in the melting snow.
“So you’re the ghost those drunks reported?” He knelt and offered his hand for the Lab to sniff. It quickly licked his fingers. “You’re friendly enough. What are you caught on?”
The stubborn dog refused to budge even with encouragement and a gentle tug on his collar. His young bark did some tugging of its own on Jake's heart, earning a smile from a jaded soldier. He hadn’t thought he had one left.
He pushed farther into the bushes, conceding that the only way to get the dog loose was to get wet himself. The poor mutt shivered hard enough to knock his tags together. Jake could relate, having been there a time or two.
Working his tall frame closer, his slacks were soaked as the slush seeped through the cloth. The snow that dropped on the back of his neck quickly melted from his body heat and dampened his skin. He slipped his hand around the dog collar and tugged again, receiving a louder howl and whimper.
“Are you hurt, boy? Is that why can’t move? All right, then. I might as well send my coat to the cleaners, too.” He stretched onto his belly, sliding forward until he could reach the hind quarters of the dog, which had gone completely still. “What’s wrong besides me calling you a boy when you’re clearly a girl?”
Nothing felt out of place or broken. The pup’s whine was consistent. The harder he pulled her toward freedom, the more the dog pressed backward.
The leash was caught on something or the pup was injured. He pulled hard and he still couldn’t get the leash free. Blindly he followed the leather to an icy death grip of fingers, causing him to instantly retreat. His jerky reaction scared the dog, causing her to struggle harder in the dark.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. Take it easy and I’ll get you out of here.” Jake kept a firm grip on the collar, snagged the flashlight from his pocket and flipped the switch to take a closer look at the body.
The glassy look of the dead took him back to Afghanistan. He’d experienced that look more than once in his military career. Male or female, it always twisted his gut.
Then it hit him…the smell of death. Faint, most likely because of the cold, but there wafting into his brain and triggering more memories that he wanted to forget. Once experienced, he could never forget.
The call hadn’t been a prank. The woman’s coat was covered in white. She’d been there all night. He’d flattened the crime scene getting to the dang dog, which wouldn’t or couldn’t leave her side.
“Hold on there, girl. I’m not going to hurt you. Give me a second here.” He couldn’t remove the leash from the body. So he’d have to disconnect the dog.
Expensive leash with a word etched into the wet leather. “Dallas? That your name or just a souvenir?” He kept a grip on the Lab with his left hand and unsnapped the leash from the dog harness with his right.
He crooned, attempting to calm the shivering mass of fur. He peeled his jacket off in the cramped space, the sharp broken twigs poking him with every shrug. He draped Dallas and shoved his coat under the dog’s legs. He took one last look into a frozen face. There was something about her, or the situation.
Something he couldn’t put a name to. Or maybe just a habit he’d started with the first investigation he’d had as a military cop. He didn’t want to make the vow. He had a clean slate but couldn’t stop the words, “Whoever did this won’t get away. And I’ll take care of your pup, ma’am. That’s a promise.”
Unable to move, Dallas didn’t struggle much covered in his jacket. Jake pulled her free, shimmying under the fence instead of scaling it, dragging the pup under after. Then he sat on a fallen tree, holding Dallas in his lap. He began to feel the cold as the wind whipped through the secluded jogging path that viewed the spillway overlook and hit his wet clothes.
Dallas made a unique noise halfway between a howl and whine.
“It’ll be okay, girl. We’ll find you another owner before too long.” He stroked the pup’s head and she quieted just a bit. Her tags indicated a rabies vaccination and that she’d been chipped, but they’d need animal control to access the information.
Jake tried his radio. Nothing. He took his cell from its carrier on his hip. Nothing. He moved up the hill until he had reception and dialed.
“Dallas 911. What’s your emergency?”

“This is Detective Jake Craig, badge 5942. I have an expired subject. Bus required at Garland and Winstead parking lot WTR 114 marker.”
“An ambulance has been dispatched to your location. Do you need me to connect you to homicide?” the dispatcher asked.
“Thanks, but we’re already here.”
“Understood Detective Craig.”
Protocol required him to ask for the ambulance, but he knew it wasn’t necessary. The woman frozen to the ground a couple of feet away was dead and had been most of the night. He’d seen the dead before. Many times over and under too many circumstances to remember them all. He didn’t want to remember.
Life was easier when he didn’t.
The pup tipped her soggy face up at him, and then rested on his thigh. Jake looked around the crushed crime scene as he dialed his partner’s cell. “I don’t know about you, Dallas, but it’s going to be a helluva long day.”
If you haven’t read The Marine’s Last Defense…I hope you’ll give it a try.
Here are some additional #ThroughMyLens posts with research photos from THE MARINE'S LAST DEFENSE.
Here’s what a reader thought
"Marines Last Defense grabs you on the first page and the action never lets up. Oh man- this is a great story brimming with page-turning excitement. The further into it I got – the faster I wanted to read. I loved the steadily building attraction between the characters as they tried to clear her name and deal with the killer who was on their trail. The book is fast-paced action at its best. The author brings very gripping tension to her stories and this one heads the list. The emotions, the fear, the action, the hope these two people experience is enthralling and you will be rooting for them. Clear your schedule for a while because once you pick up this story- you will not put it down.” ~Deanna

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USA Today Bestselling author ANGI MORGAN writes Intrigues where honor and danger collide with love. Her work is a multiple contest finalist and Publishers Weekly best-seller. She drags her dogs –and husband– around Texas for research road trips so she can write off her camera. They now have a map with highlighted roads they’ve traveled. Every detour somehow makes it into a book.

Website   Facebook   FB Fan Page   Twitter @AngiMorganAuthr     
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E.E. Burke's Best of the West: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

A brutal killing shackles Cayo Bradley more than his captivity by Apaches until his redemption by falling hauntingly in love with Darby McPhee. 
   Darby falls in love with feral, cowboy Cayo Bradley, who tries to settle back into white society after his captivity by Jicarrila Apache in northeastern New Mexico. 
   She is Cayo’s redemption from horrific acts that torment him, while she is torn between her love for him and a deathbed promise to her mother to become educated.
   A stunning tale of love and loss set between New Mexico and Missouri in the late 1870s

Here's an excerpt:
    He knew people saw him as part Apache. Others claimed he was left for dead by bandoleros, and because of his aloof and stealth disposition, and the fact that he was shy and nonconfrontational like the animal, people believed that’s how he came to be named Coyote. Somewhere along the way, Coyote’s nickname became Cayo. He didn’t care what people called him as long as they did, and for sure he knew his name didn’t matter because he’d never fit in anywhere. Once you’ve lived wild and free, it’s near impossible to return wholly capable of fitting into refined society. He knew others like himself, children who had been taken and lived with Kiowa or other tribes, and what he saw in them he knew was the same for him. They were the same outcast breed he was, not a trace of Indian blood, but Indian in the way they thought. He’d never completely forgotten his own language, English, so when he finally decided to go back to living the white folks’ way, he listened to speech, carefully repeated words, and held himself close, like a gambler in a poker game, keeping his cards to his chest. He shouldered these thoughts about himself and that other life he lived before as a yoke on an ox. It weighed on him, but he could do nothing to shirk it.
    Nobody in town knew him by any other name. Whatever his component parts were, it was for certain he was known as a man quick with a Bowie knife, swifter with a whip. That was because nobody had ever seen him shoot a deadly arrow. He wore chaps every day but Saturday when he drove the buckboard. Cayo carried two Colt pistols in his holsters and never rode his horse without a Winchester 30/30 rifle strapped to his saddle. He was a man people respected, a man who kept his mouth shut and eyes peeled, even the eyes they said he had in the back of his head.

Meet Nina
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally by small independents. Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards. Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance, releases February, 2019 from Prairie Rose Publications. You can find her on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.

E.E.: What’s the first book you remember reading?  
Nina" I read many little children’s books, but the two books that have impacted my love of reading and story-telling are Little Women and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The first book I remember reading three times in a row was Gone With the Wind.

E.E.: What’s your favorite “love” word?
Nina: In The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, each of my main characters, Darby and Cayo, use the word: “cherish.” I feel that this word choice resonates completely because it means a person wants to care and protect someone lovingly. These characters each desire specifics that love encompasses. Cherish also implies to adore, to hold dear, to be devoted to, to revere, to esteem and to admire. These characteristics are innate in the love that Darby and Cayo share for each other—it seemed to me to be the perfect love word to use, and it is still hauntingly with me.
One of the most touching experiences that I’ve taken away from writing this novel is watching the unfolding of the romance between Darby and Cayo, and seeing how these two incredibly distinct people fall in love.

E.E.: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Nina: My strongest genre both to write in and to read is historical romance.  I love history, geography and research, learning about different cultures, religions, mores, customs, superstitions, and there’s nothing as forceful as a strong love story to pull one through the pages of a book and times past. I enjoy reading war remembrances, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and other kinds of fiction as well. My least favorites are chic lit, horror, vampire, fantasy, however I do sometimes read them, but if I find I get bogged down with the story or something else, then I tend to listen to them on audio. I have so many wonderful author friends on Facebook and Twitter who adore this kind of writing—horror or vampire stories just don’t do it for me.  I look for worldwide elements even in these less favorite fictions.
For me, no one will ever come close to the magnificent story put forth by Bram Stoker in Dracula, which was not only the epitome of great story-telling, beautifully and timelessly framed, but also completely original—back then!

E.E.:  Can you tell us about a real-life hero you’ve met?
Nina: Absolutely.  My brother Bud.  He is now looking over me from up in the realms of Elysium, saying, Well, you finally did it, little sister, you wrote the novel you were destined to write—a Western.  My brother and I grew up with a father who adored reading Westerns, and seeing cowboy and Indian movies—we caught the obsession.
My brother was the epitome of generosity and kindness wrapped up in a human being, and other than my father, I’ve never met anyone who can fill his shoes. Not only did he possess these beatific qualities and characteristics, but he was also a sage, charismatic philosopher. Do I miss him?  Every day, but I’m blessed to know his spirit remains with me. 

E.E.:  If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
Nina: I’d be a chef—no doubt about it.  I cook every day.  I make American, Italian, French, Chinese, Cuban and Spanish food, and many dishes from other cultures. I’ve been cooking since I was eleven years-old. In fact, I wrote a poetry collection entitled, Cooking Lessons, in which there are poems about food, recipes, wines, people, cultures, landscapes. 
Over the years since I began to cook, I’ve watched and squirreled away numerous recipes from great cooks: grandmother, mother, aunts, mother-in-law, friends, etc.
One of the great things I treasure about cooking is that it’s so utterly natural and second nature to me, that I do it automatically while my head can concentrate on “mind writing” while I do it! 

E.E.:  What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Nina: I write the last words and it’s over. My job as a writer is done.  I, who have created and come to love or hate these characters, who’ve peopled the world of this narrative, have to call it quits. 
I consider the story I’ve written, drifting and looking back over the course of revealing the characters’ plights, seeing their difficulties and joys, and know that I have been closely paired with them in the devising a universal tale. Even though the narrative and the novel will live on in the hearts and the minds of others in various incarnations, for the writer, it’s a double-edged sword of tender happiness for the creation; yet sorrow at the leave-taking and parting. I write the Italian: La fine, which means: The end on the last page of a manuscript. Sometimes I cry. To finish is like a little death to an author.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for this lovely  opportunity to talk about my writing of my first Historical Western Romance! You are most gracious! 

To enter a drawing for a free copy of The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, leave a comment and your email. 

What are some of your favorite Western romances? What elements or characters make them so special?


Cindy Kirk Talks About Her New Release: Reunited in Good Hope

Please welcome my good friend Cindy Kirk back to the crew! She’s here to tell us about her new release, Reunited in Good Hope (A Good Hope Novel, Book 8) AND she’s giving away THREE digital copies of this fabulous book!


Award-winning author Cindy Kirk launched her Good Hope series with a bang. Christmas in Good Hope hit #1 on the Amazon best seller list for both Contemporary Romance and Women's Fiction. With each subsequent release, this popular heartwarming series continues to touch reader's hearts. The Good Hope series is a must-read for those who love stories that uplift and bring a smile to your face.


He remembers the heat. She remembers the heartbreak. 
Twenty years later do they still have a shot at love?

When an injury puts NFL star Krew Slattery’s future in question, he returns to his hometown of Good Hope. He plans to lay low, until he runs into Cassie Lohmeier. Krew has never forgotten the one amazing night they shared, and unfortunately for him, Cassie hasn’t either... 

Cassie isn’t the same love-struck girl who had her heartbroken by her high school crush. When Krew left town without even a good-bye, she was devastated and made every mistake a woman can make. But Cassie is older, wiser, and determined to leave her sordid past behind. No more excuses or distractions, and most importantly, no more men. 

But keeping Krew at a distance proves impossible once they learn he’s her daughter’s real father. Her child’s plea to spend time together over the holidays has Cassie reeling, but how can she say no? Will Krew’s return be another roadblock in her path…or an unexpected second chance at love? 



More Good Hope, of course!  In 2019 look for A Match Made in Good Hope (May), Sparks Fly in Good Hope (July) and Thankful in Good Hope (October)  

Cindy’s current release, Reunited in Good Hope, brings you back to the Door County peninsula for another happily-ever-after. If it's your first time visiting, odds are it won't be your last. Readers rave about this small-town romance series and once you read Cassie and Krew’s story, you'll understand why. 

"Returning to Good Hope is like getting together with a dear friend after a long time. Cindy Kirk drops the reader right back into Door County and it's as if we never left." Mandy ~Amazon Reviewer~

"The secondary characters create a warm and wonderful cocoon of small town caring. If you have read any of the earlier books in the series, you will see old friends. If you are new to the series, you will want to go back and read the earlier books." Annette~Goodreads Reviewer~

My next book, A Match Made in Good Hope (release date: May 1), brings together two Good Hope favorites- Pastor Dan Marshall and Katie Ruth Crewes

A Perfect Match or a Perfect Mess?
Katie Ruth Crewes has spent her life trying to be Good Hope’s good girl. Well, maybe not her whole life. After the scandal involving her parents made high school a nightmare it was only natural Katie Ruth would rebel. But those wild days are in the past and that’s where Katie Ruth intends to keep them. Now she’s devoted to her friends, her volunteer work, and recently to a handsome, young minister.
Pastor Dan Marshall knows a lot about many things, but he knows nothing about women. He was blindsided when his fiancée left him last year and he’s never known how to talk to his little sister, Oaklee, the family hellion. Then there’s Katie Ruth. To Dan, she is the ideal woman: smart, caring, and honest. He knows she’s his perfect partner, he just doesn’t know what to do about it. Katie Ruth does a lot for the church, and Dan can’t risk any impropriety—no matter how much he’s tempted….
When Oaklee suddenly appears on Dan’s doorstep, his well-ordered life receives a well-timed shake up. Perhaps his outrageous sister isn’t as different from him as he believes. She certainly has good advice when it comes to Katie Ruth, who Dan is falling more in love with every day. But Oaklee isn’t the only shock to hit Good Hope. When a secret from Katie Ruth’s past comes to light, she and Dan will have to decide how far they are willing to go to save their piece of paradise.


Cindy Kirk
Nancy Robards Thompson: Hi, Cindy! I’m so happy you’re here today! How often do you “get lost in a story?”

Cindy Kirk:  Thanks, Nancy. I’m so happy to be back visiting GLIAS.  I love nothing more than to “get lost in a story” whether that is when I’m writing my own or listening to one on Audible (my preferred way to read)

NRT: Congratulations on your new release. Reunited in Good Hope is the 8th book in your Good Hope series. What sparked the idea for this wonderful series?

CK: Cassie Lohmeier has been a part of this series since the first book. Most readers would likely agree with these reviewers (who btw both gave the book 5 stars) that Cassie had made some huge mistakes and wasn’t very likeable:

“As we know, Cassie has been featured in the previous Good Hope books, but she wanted a new start and knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Although in the previous books she was more of the not so good mother and just bad overall; this book brings Cassie to a new light, she is a woman that must face her demons and mistakes every single day…”

“Kirk digs deep to show us the real Cassie. Not the one the town has determined her to be. And now she is reunited with her first love. We watch Cassie struggle and grow and finally get her much deserved confidence, success, and happily-ever-after.” 

I knew everything that had occurred that had sent Cassie on a downward spiral. I also knew there was a strong woman emerging. I wanted her to get her HEA. For the past few books, she has been seeing a psychologist and making great strides. She wasn’t looking for a man to save her, she had to save herself first. In Reunited in Good Hope, she finds her happily ever after with the first—and only—man she ever loved.

NRT: What is your favorite trait about your hero in Reunited in Good Hope? 

CK: That he not only loves her, he loves her kids

NRT: Why does the hero love heroine?

CK: Krew realizes that Cassie is a survivor, much like him. They share a desire to build a strong family life as well as a potent attraction.

NRT: In general, are your books more hero-centric or heroine focused?

CK: I would have to say heroine focused.

NRT: You were a nurse before you started writing full-time. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

CK: I wrote in my diary at age 16 “I don’t know what I would do if I can’t be a writer.” It took me a lot of years to come back to that early dream. Writing is truly my passion.

NRT: What’s the difference between a good book and a great book?
CK:  To me a great book is one that pulls me in, that keeps me reading when I should go to bed, one that leaves me feeling happy at the end.

NRT: Where do you read and how often?

CK:  I listen to audio books when I’m in the car or walking the dogs. I read on my Kindle before I go to bed.

NRT: Do you have a playlist for Reunited in Good Hope? If so, what are some of the songs on it?

CK: This probably sounds silly, but when I’m writing I play one song over and over and over. It’s more background noise than anything. The song I played when writing this book was With or Without You by April Meservy 

NRT: What makes you happy?

CK: Writing, especially having a scene come together. Walking the dogs (we have two). Hanging with family, which includes three young granddaughters.

NRT: What is your biggest turn off?

CK: Negative people

NRT: What’s the best thing about being a writer?

CK:  the writing itself and all the friends I’ve made over the years

NRT: You’ve written widely for several traditional publishers as well as taking charge of your career and publishing independently. Would you please share the story of selling your first book? Please tell us about the day you got “The Call.”

CK: I’d been at a meeting for my day job and decided to simply go home instead of heading back to the office. I was relaxing in the sun on my deck and had come in to get something cold to drink when the phone rang. Keep in mind this was 1999 so it was our land line. I picked it up and someone said my name. I thought telemarketer and nearly hung up. Until she identified herself as Patience Smith from Harlequin and said they wanted to buy my book!!

NRT: How many books have you written?

CK: I just finished Sparks Fly in Good Hope. It’s my 57th book!   

NRT: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Cindy! It was such fun talking to you.

CK: It’s always fun to visit! Thanks again, for having me. 

Cindy Kirk is giving away THREE digital copies of Reunited in Good Hope.

SHE WANTS TO KNOW:  “Tell me where should I consider setting a new series?
Answer Cindy’s question in the comments below to be entered for a chance to win.

Find Cindy on the web:
| Website: https://www.cindykirk.com 
| Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.kirk.399
| Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/cindy-kirk/
| Twitter: https://www/twitter.com/cindykirkauthor
| Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/cindykirk
  Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cindy-kirk

| Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/cindykirkauthor___
| Instagram: _www.instagram.com/cindykirkauthor_
| Cindy’s previous GLIAS posts: http://bit.ly/2hv5YeE

National bestselling author Nancy Robards Thompson lives and writes in Tennessee, but her imagination transports her all over the world. She has found Nirvana doing what she loves most – writing romance and women's fiction full-time. After hanging up her press pass, this former journalist and two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart struck gold in July 2002 when she won the award. Since then, she’s gone on to sell more than 40 books, which critics have deemed, “…funny, smart and observant.” You can connect with her at NancyRobardsThompson.com; on Facebook at Nancy Robards Thompson Books; follow her on Twitter at @NRTWrites; and connect with her on Instagram @NancyRThompson.


E.E. Burke's Best of the West: Patti Sherry-Crews Inspired New Western Romance


When his identical twin brother is arrested, the Pinkerton Detective Agency enlists Wynne Palmatier to go undercover and impersonate his outlaw brother, Ennis. His mission is to infiltrate his brother’s gang. 
    Ennis tells Wynne everything he needs to know. Except for one thing: there are two women with the outlaws, and one of them is his wife. 
    Lucy House is still paying for the day she strayed away from decency. Now the handsome outlaw she ran away with has lost his appeal and she longs to get away from this life. 
    As the danger mounts, can Wynne and Lucy escape this den of thieves?

Here's an excerpt:

Texas, 1883

     She experienced the view as an ache. So impossibly blue and bright. She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the blue sky to savor the sweet scent of the flowers without the distraction of the sky, which even now flashed on the backs of her eyelids. The rain lilies perfuming the air, flowering after a heavy rain, would only last a day or two. How fortunate they were to catch them in bloom. The delicate white petals, so easy to miss. She took this as a good omen. With her eyes still closed, she listened to the sound of the buckboard wheels bumping up and down in the ruts of the dirt road and felt the gentle touch of Billy’s coat sleeve brushing against her as his arms moved with the reins.
     He nudged her. “What are you thinking about? You’ve got a smile lighting up your face like rays of sunshine on a summer morning.”
     Her eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice, a deep melody that reverberated in her heart. She turned in his direction to see his dark eyes sparkling with delight.
     “Why, I’m…” She let out a nervous giggle and tugged at her bonnet strings before fixing him with a bold look. “I’m thinking how this time next week I’ll be living a different life. The life of a married lady.”

Meet Patti

Patti Sherry-Crews lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband in their newly empty nest. She studied anthropology and archaeology at Grinnell College in Iowa and University of North Wales in Bangor, UK. When growing up, her favorite toys were her plastic cowboys and Indians she took everywhere with her. Now a full time author she stills plays with cowboys and Indians and is able to share them with others. She also writes medieval romance. Sometimes she stays in her own century and writes contemporary romances. Patti would like to say she loves to cook, but in all honesty has to admit that these days she likes pinning recipes more than working in the kitchen.

Author website: http://pattisherrycrews16.wix.com/author-blog

E.E.: What sound or noise do you love?

Patti: Like most people I love the sound of rain hitting the roof, the wind in the trees, and waves rolling on the beach. But, the sounds I most love I can’t easily share with you because they are the sounds my pets make. We have an old tabby cat who rarely makes a sound and a not as old puggle who is very noisy. 

The puggle, Gracie May, seems incapable of going about her day without making strange noises. Even when she sleeps, she snores. When we sit down to eat, she likes to break bread along with us from her dog dish. She drowns out conversation. It’s like having a herd of asthmatic wild boar tearing into a small car with their teeth. Even when she’s just doing nothing at all, she grunts and groans and stutters. My favorite Gracie May noise is if you rub her tummy she smiles and makes a sound I can only describe as Billy Bob Thorton in the movie Sling Blade.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is our cat, Lucille Bell (Lucy for short). For the last 13 years or so she has managed to have her needs met through eye contact and gestures only. She’s very good at this. But once in a while she is inspired to let out a meow so loud and raw it shakes the house. I love it. When the quiet ones talk, you always listen.

E.E.: What inspires you daily?
Patti: Oh, that’s an easy one! Before I sit down to work I go for an hour long walk. We have a park about 2 miles away with a duck pond surrounded hills planted with all variety of trees. I love to walk down there and back and watch the trees change with the seasons. If I set off in the opposite direction there’s Lake Michigan. The lake always has a new story to tell as it reacts to the weather. Nature inspires me. I need to get out into it to remind myself of the world and my place in it. These walks reset me. I do much of my writing in my head during this time. Plus I see things or hear odd bits of conversation I can use later. Unfortunately, the weather in Chicago isn’t always cooperative. I have a rule that I go for my walk as usual despite the weather unless it’s so slippery I could break a bone, so windy I might get conked by a falling branch, so cold my face freezes off, or raining so hard I can’t see. Even then you might see me out with my balaclava protecting my face and my yaktrax strapped to my shoes.

E.E.: Complete this sentence. When I want to relax, I…
Patti: I have an hour of the day I stop everything and do words puzzles on my phone: 4 o’clock on the dot. I’m strict with myself in that way. It’s not unusual for me to sit down at my desk to start work, notice it’s 4 o’clock, and get up to relax.

I also like to go for walks with my friends, which combines two of my favorite things that help me unwind. I’ve also discovered guided meditation apps and I’m surprised how helpful that activity is to settling my mood.

One of my favorite things for relaxation are jigsaw puzzles. My husband and I often have one going on the coffee table. The only problem is that we have very different work styles. He likes to sort them by color and then further sort them by shape. I like to search through the whole mess of pieces to find the one I’m looking for. It’s like a treasure hunt. Very soothing.
 Recently I got a puzzle and took it to my office to work it all by myself, pieces unsorted (except for the edge pieces—that’s a given you first separate the edge, whatever your puzzle-style). I learned I can never do that ever again. Without a puzzle-partner to control me, I behaved like a crack addict. I. Could. Not. Stop. Until that picture was complete I couldn’t walk away from it. And it took days. After that I’ve put myself in puzzle rehab.

E.E.: Can you tell us about a real-life hero you’ve met?
Patti: I more than met a real-life hero, I lived with one. Both my father and my grandfather were firefighters. I was always aware they were heroes—at least as an adult looking back. But I took my late father’s scrapbook and photos (he was also the company’s photographer) to one of our local fire stations. Looking through the scrapbook, the firefighters were astounded with the number of house fires my father and his peers fought compared to what they face today, which someone guessed averaged out to two fires a week. Thankfully today’s better fire prevention has cut down on the loss of life and property. I can’t imagine going to work and not knowing what the day might bring or if I’d be putting my life on the line.

E.E.: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Patti: While I was doing the research for my first HWR, Margarita and the Hired Gun, I read about the outlaw hideaways such as Hole in the Wall. I came across one mention of how the Pinkerton's attempts to send in undercover agents to infiltrate the hideaways were never successful. I found that intriguing but couldn’t find any accounts. So, I thought what if an outlaw with an identical twin, gets himself arrested, and the Pinkertons recruit his twin to impersonate him?

Before starting this project I wrote a 3 part blog series on the women who were affiliated with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch: Etta Place, Laura Bullion, and the Bassett sisters. I found the women were actually as interesting—if not more so—then the men. I based my female characters on these women. And the true life love story of the Sundance Kid and Etta Place captured my imagination and inspired me as well.

Over the years I’ve read quite a bit of history about the Old West. There are so many awesome stories and bigger than life characters in that time and place. It’s an easy step for me as an author, to lift these people out of the pages of history and incorporate them into my tales.

E.E.: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Patti: I don’t know how they stand up to my adult self, but there were two movies I watched over and over again at a tender age: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Cat Ballou. And so began my lifelong love of the Old West. I wonder if I, a girl from a suburb of Chicago, would ever have picked the genre of historical western romance if it had not been for those movies? I don’t think I would have.

E.E.: How often do you get lost in a story?
Patti: I read every night before bed. Nothing is more frustrating for me than NOT getting lost in a story. I love when I can’t wait to get back to a book. I’ve pondered this because I have a specific genre I especially love and I have my go-to authors. If it’s chic lit set in UK or Ireland and London or Dublin in particular, I’m on it. Not NYC. Not LA or Paris. I can only get lost in the story if it’s set in the British Isles in places I’ve lived and loved and can revisit through the words on a page. Because I plow through these books, I’m always searching for new authors. I find that I can get lost in a story in this genre even if the writing isn’t good. I can be very forgiving of bad writing and predictable plots so long as the story transports me. In conclusion, I’m all about the setting.

My question to the readers: What about a book allows you to get lost in a story?  Do you look for character, storyline, setting, a specific genre, or is it the prose itself?

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