Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes: Heather Gray!

Whew! Summer is busy now that I’ve got a kid who’s been in school. It shouldn’t be any different than before he started, but somehow it is.

Weird.

Anyway, I can still do guest features pretty easily! 😀 So without further ado, I’d like to welcome back the delightful Heather Gray! Enjoy!


Back Cover Blurb:

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

 

 

Excerpt:

1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.

 

****

 

A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

 

Author Bio:

Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that’s not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict.  Some things just can’t be helped.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

iTunes

 

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite

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Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes: Heather Gray!

Welcome back Heather Gray! Oooh, this looks sooo good! I’ve had Heather as a guests for her books, Late for the Ball? and Mail Order Man, and if you guys loved those, I’m sure you’ll love this one too! 😀

****

Murder, mayhem, marriage, and a horse named Mutiny…

Minnie’s impulsiveness has been getting her into trouble her whole life.  She never expected it to land her on a suspect list for murder, though.  With nothing left but a few trunks of possessions and her own defeat, Minnie leaves San Francisco behind and returns home.  In an effort to protect her family and friends, she keeps them in the dark about the ongoing investigation and the possibility that danger may have followed her to Larkspur.  When events force her to trust someone with her secrets, she turns to the sheriff and finds both a friend and an ally.

It may have been four years since he last saw Minnie, but how could he ever forget her?  When Art finds her sneaking through a back alley in town, he knows something’s wrong.  The once vivacious Minnie is a mere shadow of her former self, all sparkle gone from her eyes. Art knows that time spent with her will be dangerous to his heart, but he can’t turn Minnie away.  Even if it means protecting her from her own impetuous decisions, he vows to keep her safe.

In her attempt to take responsibility for her own choices, Minnie shut out her friends, family, and God.  An unsolved murder isn’t all that’s chasing Minnie, though.  Will she find her way back to the heart of her faith before it’s too late?

 

Excerpt:

August 1882

Minnie needed to get home quickly. It was imperative. William would be displeased if she was away too long. He was not kind when angry.

She rushed around the corner only to be stopped by the familiar sight of police gathered outside the tenement building where she and William rented a room. Given the area they lived in, seeing police was a matter of course. The sheer number of officers present, though, was anything but routine.

At the time she’d married him, Minnie had expected to have a grand life with her husband. She was but the daughter of a small-town mayor, but William, why he was a gifted and recognized journalist. Her dreams of that happy life of travel, investigation, and collaboration had evaporated within their first month of marriage. The wonderful man who had courted her, caressed her with silver-tongued words, and danced into her heart had disappeared.

He’d left in his place a man who was bitter and angry because she, while the daughter of a politician, had no wealth to her name, no grand dowry to finance the illicit habits he had kept from her during their brief courtship. She’d had to adjust to a life far removed from her dreams, a life where the only thing more common than police at their building was the stench of squalor in the air.

Minnie hurried through the gathering of policemen and rushed up the stairs, hoping that William would still be asleep and wouldn’t realize she’d been out. As she approached their room, she saw an officer standing in the hallway by the already-open door to the small space she shared with her husband. “Pardon me, ma’am,” the officer said, “are you Mrs. Drake?”

Nodding, she craned her neck to see around the officer. He tried to block her view, but she caught a peek inside. A strangled gasp escaped her lips. With strength out of place in her small frame, she shoved past the policeman and dashed into their quarters. Her husband of not quite three years, William Drake, lay in a pool of blood, almost unrecognizable. His corpse lay there beaten – nay, bludgeoned – to death. His lifeless eyes stared off into the distance. “W-what happened?” she asked, her voice hoarse.

“Mrs. Drake.” The man speaking wore his somber expression as comfortably as he wore his suit – both were threadbare from too much use. “I need to ask where you’ve been these past two hours.”

Trying desperately to pull her eyes away from her husband’s corpse, she fought to speak. “An errand.” The words felt as if they were being pulled from her throat. “I had an errand to run.”

“Where, Mrs. Drake?”

About a year into their marriage, William had stopped pursuing his journalism career. He was always either deep in his cups or giving up their every possession at the gaming tables. Going to work had become necessary, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about exposing that part of her life to the man in the suit, a virtual stranger. It had been easy enough to step into Will’s shoes and take over his position at the newspaper. She did her writing in secret, and everything was published under the name Will Drake, the byline her husband had used.

Minnie didn’t know how to explain her job to these men without feeling the shame and embarrassment of having to admit both facts – that her husband was a sluggard who’d forced his wife to support him and that most of San Francisco believed her to be a man. Little encouragement was to be found in the stern faces of the officers, and she began to question whether either claim would be believable.

Looking into the eyes of the suited man, she saw something dreadful. Minnie lifted her hand to her throat in foreboding. “You suspect me, then, in my husband’s death.” It wasn’t a question. She could see the truth of it on the detective’s face.

“Answer the question, Mrs. Drake. Where have you been?”

“Everywhere but where I should have been, it would seem,” she said softly.

 

Author Bio:

Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order Man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  Other titles include Ten Million Reasons, His Saving Grace, and Nowhere for Christmas – everything from Regency England to modern-day America.  Aside from a long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys are her relationships with her Savior and family.  She decided years ago that she’d rather laugh than yell.  This theme is prevalent in her writing where, through the highs and lows of life, her characters find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

iTunes

 

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite

Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes – Heather Gray!

Yes, I did have Heather as a guest before, but she was kind enough to have another post ready for me. And honestly, who can resist this cover! 😀 I’ve found a new love for the regency romance genre because I hadn’t known that there were authors out there writing a clean version until I found Astraea Press. I can’t wait to delve into this one! Enjoy!

Back Cover Blurb:

Fulfilling one’s destiny has never been so…compelling.

Myra is cast aside by her parents, betrothed to a man she’s never met, and forced into a life she never wanted. In the midst of it all, she finds herself strangely drawn into something she doesn’t entirely understand.

The earl is mocking, demanding and entirely unwilling to break the betrothal.  He speaks in riddles, but by night’s end, one thing is clear: He is not who he seems.

Follow Myra into a world of intrigue and hidden meaning. Will she unravel the mystery before time runs out?

Excerpt:

As she reached the top of the ostentatious entrance, the Ateliers’ butler announced her to the throng. “Lady Myra Sedulous.” His voice rang out across the ballroom as she entered. Her name wasn’t generally important enough to warrant a deluge of attention. However, being late as she was, more than the normal one or two heads twisted in her direction. Not accustomed to this amount of notice, she made her way over to the refreshments. Myra moved swiftly to avoid conversation but kept her pace unhurried. She effortlessly carried off the look of graceful purpose so many debutantes strived for but failed to capture.

Myra was reaching for a glass of lemonade when a voice stilled her.

“You must be my betrothed.” The words had the slightest accent. Myra tried but could not identify it.

Greek, perchance? If a man could sound both immovable and fluid at the same time, this man did. His voice was warm like a rich cup of chocolate yet chilly as the deepest days of winter. A thought flitted through her mind. Devour the chocolate or swear it off for life?

Myra turned to look at the man. Taller than any other at the ball, he was also broad-shouldered and fearsome in appearance. His hair was indeed darker than night. A deep olive color, his skin invited her to reach out and touch it. A shadow of growth covered his jaw, showing his utter disregard for the opinions of others. Determined to smile, she shifted her attention to his eyes and instead felt the corners of her mouth droop as their inky depths burned into her, making her feel transparent and bare. “And you are?” she asked, her voice quivering despite her best efforts to keep it steady.

The man had the gall to throw his head back and laugh. This was not, however, the laugh of a man meeting his betrothed for the first time. It sounded to Myra like the feral cry of a predatory animal. Surely prey about to be devoured could feel no less cornered than she did in that moment. “Why, I am the Earl of Allegory, of course. And you, my dear, are all mine.”

Author Bio:

Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing.  Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell.  Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Buy Links:

Available in all electronic formats (for Kindle, Nook & other e-readers) for only 50¢ from Astraea Press.  http://astraeapress.com/#!/~/product/category=662245&id=24651949

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Goodreads –  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4051662.Heather_Gray

Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes – Heather Gray!

First of all, I’d like to say that this will be my last post for a few weeks. I’m going on a blogcation to squeeze out the last bit of summer fun with my kids before my oldest starts Kindegarten. I’ll also be taking a bit of extra time to focus on the edits for The Stone of Kings to get it ready for submission. I’m planning on being back to my regularly scheduled blogging program on August 12th. 😀

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Heather Gray and I have to say, her book looks like so much fun to read! The moment I read the blurb, I could just imagine the fun ride she would take the reader on in this story. Enjoy!

MailOrderMan_500x750 (2)

Back Cover Blurb:

Some people get a mail order bride.  She got a mail order man.

A well-meaning friend places an ad to find a mail order husband for Sarah, the proprietress of Larkspur’s stage and mail office. Sarah, who is generally quiet and reserved, doesn’t know about the ad and has no idea what to do with all the people that are showing up in her community.  Before long, the town is overrun with men and mail alike.  Sarah is trying to avoid some men who have accosted her on the street when she stumbles into Samuel.  Through long days spent together at the stage office, some very adventurous pots of coffee and a shared faith, the two became friends.  Sarah knows that Samuel is hiding something from her, something important, but that doesn’t stop her heart from leaping wildly into love.  Lacking the confidence to trust her heart, Sarah wars with herself over the feelings she can no longer deny.  When some of the men who have come to town show their true intentions, a shootout follows.  Sarah finally gets answers to many of the questions circling through her mind.  One question remains, though.  Where will her mail order man go when the dust settles?

Excerpt:

Right then Claudio and Cesar came through the door. Both boys chimed a “Good morning!” in Sarah’s direction as they headed straight for the coffee on the stove. Sarah saw their intent and inwardly cringed. Not only was she not sure about how many scoops of grounds she’d put in, but the coffee had been percolating much longer than normal because she got distracted with the letters.

Samuel had his back to the stove and did not see the boys as they each poured a cup of coffee. Sarah was about to warn them as Claudio, the middle boy at age 16, took a big swig of the hot brew while Cesar, the youngest, opted to blow on his first. Claudio’s eyes grew wide as he swallowed. “Miss Sarah, I do believe that’s the best coffee you’ve ever made. That’s the kind of coffee vaqueros drink!”

Samuel visibly perked up at the mention of coffee. Sarah was sure he couldn’t know a vaquero was a Mexican cowboy and that they drink their camp coffee strong. If he understood what the boys were saying, he definitely wouldn’t be in a hurry to get a cup of his own. Cesar finally took a drink of his coffee. Sarah could see him trying not to make a face as he swallowed the brew. “Vaquero coffee for sure, Miss Sarah. Papa would be proud.”

Sarah had barely started to warn, “Uh, Samuel…” when he took a big gulp of the coffee Claudio had poured for him. She watched the shock on his face as he first paled and then grew red. His eyes flew wide as he tried desperately to swallow the coffee. He finally ran out the front door and spit the coffee out over the edge of the stage platform.

The boys could not contain their howling laughter as Samuel walked back into the stage office, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Author Bio:

Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing.  Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell.  Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Man-ebook/dp/B00C6TPCWO/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373667067&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mail-order-man-heather-gray/1114989167?ean=2940016689722

Astraea Press – http://astraeapress.com/#!/~/product/id=22044087

Kobo – http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Mail-Order-Man/book-asnxoZQAiUyPtUjYGGKZmQ/page1.html

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Goodreads –  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4051662.Heather_Gray

Writing

Sprints!

Um, are we saying that I belong in a museum too? Oh, I’m saying that! Okay.

A while back, I wrote a post about writing with pen and paper. Recently, I’ve participated in my first two writing sprints with some of the other authors from Astraea Press. The winner gets bragging rights and a bunch of virtual chocolate. 🙂

Yeah, that winner will never be me…

After an hour of writing, the superstars cranked out 1500 -2300 words. WOW! This past week’s winner was Heather Gray. Who, by the way, just released a new short story Late for the Ball? With 2300 words in an hour, no wonder she has two books scheduled for release this summer and one for this fall!

My grand total? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … yeah, had to count by hand too. Oooh! A whopping 596! Twelve words short of the week before, but the pen I chose ran out of ink and I had to stop and find a new one.

I’ll just pull over to let the Corvette pass me. I’m quite comfortable in my Model A. Um, I like the way it drives. Yeah. I, uh, love to take my time… looking at the scenery…

Don’t get me wrong, the other authors were super sweet when I posted my meager number. They knew I was writing by hand. I knew I had no chance of winning. Winning wasn’t my goal. My goal was to write with my comrades for an hour and see how many words I could manage.

But maybe I’m too nostalgic?

Right now, I think that it’s awesome that I’m writing this particular book in a red leather-bound journal. After I got started on it, and then was doing some research on Irish faeries, I found that the color red was a significant magical color in the stories. That was completely unplanned.

I’m totally writing about a red leather-bound book of faery magic spells IN a red leather-bound book!

Ooooh! My book of magic! It's almost full...
Ooooh! My book of magic! It’s almost full of my scribbles…

Sometimes I go to the journal section of the book store and just study the beautiful bindings and think, “Hmm, maybe that one next… is it worth $30 though? But it’s just soooo pretty!!”

I wonder if there’s a way for me to un-see the hand written copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I went to the British Museum in London. Maybe that was too influential. My nerdy heart fluttered wildly when I was looking down at her penmanship.

*snaps fingers in face* “Er, Shea? You’re not anywhere near the level of Charlotte Bronte.”

The thing is, I knew that writing this way is slow. But until these sprints, I never quite realized just how slow. I think for my next book, I’ll try to break out of my comfort zone. I just hope I don’t end up staring at a blinking cursor for hours.

Maybe one day, I’ll do a sprint and actually be a contender. 😀

What are your thoughts? Do you think that there are just some things that need to be done more efficiently? Have you been screaming at me as you read this post, “Get with the program?”