Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sad Andi Announcement

Mrs. Marlow must settle "Andi" in a corner for a while. (But the short-story contest is still a GO!) I will announce it here when it officially launches. By this fall, hopefully I'll also dust Andi off from the corner and start blogging again. So write those stories in the meantime and send them in to!

Please read on and pray . . . 

I'm afraid some very hard news has come to my family. Nathan, age 18, my daughter's oldest (of 8), was just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes yesterday. He was scheduled to leave for The Master's University in California in about a month. Now it appears that his life--and my daughter's and her family's entire life--is on hold for an indeterminate amount of time. I read up on this disease, and it's overwhelming in the beginning to stabilize, doctor visits, diet adjustments, on and on. 

Basically, it's an emotional train wreck in the beginning. 

With that in mind, I have decided that I can't do everything, so for now I will put Andi's life (her blog) on hold so I can be available my daughter and her family until Nathan is well on his way to adjusting to this new, lifelong issue.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Riley's Ramblings: Fort Alcatraz

Christmas 1876
Fort Alcatraz. You can see our house on the left.
I'm curled up by the fire in this terrible, terrible place. Fort Alcatraz is an island right off the coast of San Francisco. I hoped Pa would still be stationed at the Presidio, which I liked a lot---before Mama got sick. Lots of room to run and play with the other army kids. A nice school at the fort. And best of all, a place for Midnight to be stabled. 

Midnight is still stabled at the Presidio, but I'm stuck here on this rocky island. Pa was sent to command this fort about a week after I left the Circle C ranch. Now it's raining, raining, raining. There are only about ten kids at this whole stinking fort. Nasty Tom Malloy is the only boy nearest my age.  

I found out what Fort Alcatraz does. Pa and his 86 men don't fight Indians here on this rocky island. This is where the Indians go when they break the law. This is where really bad white people go who break the law. They're all together, and Papa is in charge. Kind of gives me the shivers to know there are so many criminals just behind those fortress walls. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Slice of Life - 17

I was a bit surprised. Did a uniform really make such a difference? Wasn't it President Lincoln who had declared, right after the War ended, that we were all Americans? Not Northern or Southern. Not Yankees and Confederates. But Americans. Seems I read that in my history book a few years back.
Maybe textbooks and real life are more different than I thought.
Mr. Sullivan seemed to read my thoughts. “War is a terrible thing, Mrs. Prescott. And no words will change feelings that are rooted deep in the hearts of many people. War . . .  It takes you places you never wanted to go. It forces you to make decisions you never wanted to make. And it changes you.”
I cocked my head. “What do you mean?”
His lemonade finished, he set the glass down with a bang then looked up and met my eyes. “I fought on the Confederate side. I was just a kid—no more than sixteen. Edward was on the union side. And . . .”
He took a breath then spoke again. “When you and your big brother end up fighting on opposite sides of the War because you believe in different things, a wedge is driven in your family that will never be removed. And when you see your brother lying there on a field, dying in a pool of his own blood, and you can’t get to him in time . . . “
His voice broke. “Even if I could have gotten there before that bullet took him, I wonder if it would have mattered. Edward had always been my best friend. He taught me to fish and to hunt, but now, on a field of carnage . . . we were enemies.”
His voice lowered to a whisper, and the wind brought the words to me.
“When I saw Edward there, I knew what I wanted more than anything. I wanted to be brothers again, if only for a moment. But it wasn’t to be. He . . . he was gone. And he’d left me behind.”
For a moment, I think he left the porch and was transported back to that field. His eyes no longer focused, but became distant. His gaze wandered across the rolling land around the house.
I didn’t know what to say. What was there so say? My heart pounded thinking what it would be like for Chad to be on one side of a battle and Mitch on the other. Fighting . . . each other.
Tears watered my eyes. I couldn't imagine watching my brother die. Even less could I imagine them being enemies in a war.
Mr. Sullivan turned back to me, shaking his head as if to clear the images that were still vivid and fresh, even after twenty-odd years.  
“It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Not his. Not mine. We both agreed that we had to fight on the side we believed in. You can’t fight for a cause that you don’t believe in. We knew when we walked in opposite directions that it would end that way. I just always thought I’d be the one to die. Not him.”
I swallowed and finally found my voice, blinking back the tears that his story had evoked.  “I--I’m so sorry.”
A quick nod was the only answer I got. How could war do something like that? How could it tear two brothers so far apart? How terrible it would be as a younger brother to watch your friend—hero, even—die. I’d almost watched two brothers die. Mitch in an isolated cabin, and Chad on the cattle drive. It had nearly torn me apart. But thank God they had lived.
It suddenly hit me that I knew so little about the battles that went on within our country. This was the first time I had ever put a face with a War.
It came like an ocean wave, crashing into my face. Giving me a rude awakening into how life went on for so many people who lived back east. Like Macy Walker.
I wondered how long it would be before the wounds healed. And then I wondered if they ever would. How could something like this heal?
I knew that only the grace of God could heal something that had so torn families apart.
Mr. Sullivan stood and placed his hat back on his head. He had let his mask fall again, hiding the emotion that had been there before.  “Well, thank you for the lemonade, and the recommendation for a job. I best be on my way.”
I tried to smile. “When you get to the Circle C, tell Chad that Andi sent you.”
He gave a quick nod. “Will do. Have a wonderful afternoon.” He tipped his hat once more and rode off.
I sat there, trying to comprehend the story he had told me. It was then that I realized the history books had not exaggerated. The Civil War really was a time when brother fought against brother.
Because they believed differently. And they took a stand for those beliefs.
I shuddered and stood up, picking up the laundry basket. I had no idea how a gentleman like Paul Sullivan had gone so far out of his way to stumble across Riley’s and my little ranch. It was almost like . . . well, like God had guided him so I could think beyond my every day, normal, safe life. Mr. Sullivan had shook me up, and then some.
As I grabbed both glasses and made my way inside, I sent a prayer heavenward. A prayer entreating God that we would never again have to be involved in a War like that. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Photo Friday--Price of Truth full cover flat

Photos Fridays always sneak up on me! Luckily, I just received this brand-new full cover flat for Price of Truth, which Kregel is re-releasing (anniversary edition) in a month. Yay! I love the purple.
Read on for more Price of Truth surprises . . . 

By popular demand, I revised a number of scenes in this book. Not a full chapter or anything, but I used your suggestions for some of the things that did not seem "quite right" in the older version. For example, one fan suggested that Andi show her "mettle" by telling the truth BEFORE Jack burst in and saves the day. Here is part of the revised scene:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Riley's Ramblings: Growing Up in an Army Fort

I wrote about one of Riley's journals I found the other day.When he saw that I really wanted to learn more about what happened after he left the Circle C ranch, he brought in a whole stack of books from the barn. "Didn't think you'd want to read the scribbling of a little kid," he joked. "So I kept most of them in a special box up in the loft."

Not want to read about Riley? Of course I do! Riley left the ranch when I was eight and a half (he was ten and a half). The first six months I cried. I missed my playmate so much! But after I turned nine and found a new friend (Sadie Hollister), Riley began to dim in my memory and I began to think about him less and less. By the time he returned as a wrangler to work for his Uncle Sid and my brother Chad seven years later, I had pretty much forgotten him.

I didn't realize he never forgot me! I will forever treasure the birthday gift he gave me when I turned sixteen (a picture of him and me with Taffy and Midnight). Reading his journals makes me laugh and cry and realize he had a completely different life from the little boy who was Cook's Helper for three years. He arrived on the ranch when I was about five and a half. His mother was sick, and his father was an Army captain and often away on patrol, so his Uncle Sid cared for Riley until his mother got well. 

I have set aside a special day each week to share Riley's journal entries through the years. I'm going to start right at the beginning, so be patient with a young boy's spelling mistakes! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

November 1876

Uncle Sid gave me a journal for a good-by present. (Well, he said it was a Christmas present too). Mama and Papa are not snoops, so I can safely write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in this-here book. (I once heard a fella in the courtroom ask a witness if he swore to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," and it sort of stuck with me). 

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Slice of Life - 16

The War between the States—or the Civil War, as it is now being called—never had much of an impact on my life past having to memorize dates and battles. After all, the War was over three years before I was even born.
Maybe that’s why, aside from what I learned in school, I never had any interest in the war. Or maybe because it’s because I always lived in California, so far from where the whole, messy disaster took place. The Eastern States seem like a world away.
Either way, the War has never been something that occupied my thoughts any further than scribbling a list of Rebel States and Union states (of which California was one—the Union). It never impacted me as it had my friend Macy Walker. Her family had suffered greatly. And I’m glad I didn’t have to know much about it.
Well, until today, that is.
But today . . . today the War came to my doorstep. I suddenly realized just how horrible this conflict was that tore our nation apart twenty years ago.  
I was out on the porch, a cup of lemonade in my hand and a pile of clean clothes in a basket at my feet. Perhaps it’s not exactly proper to fold one’s laundry outside. But really, how often do strangers ride miles and miles out of the way.
Besides, the day was beautiful, and I’ve spent practically all my life out of doors. Staying inside to do the chores drives me nuts.
I had finished just about everything when I saw a lone rider trotting up the drive. I squinted, trying to make out who it could be. It didn’t seem to be anyone I’d seen around before.
As he drew nearer, I realized it wasn’t anyone who lived in town. It was a gentleman who must have been in his late forties. His clothing indicated that he wasn’t from around here. While it wasn’t anything fancy, it was styled more like an Easterner’s clothes.
He dismounted and approached the steps, whipping off his hat and bowing his head slightly in my direction. “Ma’am.”
By this time I was standing. My hand gripped the porch railing with a bit of uncertainty. Who was this man, and what did he want? I nodded, acknowledging him.
“I was wondering if perhaps you had some work I could do? Maybe around the house, or—” his eyes swept over the land—“on the ranch?”
My grip on the railing relaxed. He was simply looking for a job. “My husband is out on the range right now, and he works for my brother over on the Circle C. If you want a job, it would probably be best to ride over to the ranch and ask for Chad.”  
The man placed his hat back on his head and moved back as if to mount up again. “Many thanks, ma’am.”
I don’t know what made me call out to him. Maybe it was the hopeless look that hovered about his eyes, or the way his shoulders drooped, even when every other part of him seemed to be a perfect gentleman. Even down to the accent, which was clearly Southern. I knew that. Macy and her brothers had that very drawl, but theirs had been ruined by their poor roots.
This man had refinement in his soft, slow drawl that affected each of his words.
He turned, his eyes questioning.
“It’s a bit of a ride, and the sun’s a might hot. I thought maybe you’d like a glass of lemonade before you leave.”
Considering for a moment, he nodded. “That’d sure be nice of ya, ma’am. I’m much obliged.”
I motioned to the steps. “Sit there and I’ll bring you a glass.”
He sat, and I hurried into the house, closing the screen door behind me. He looked as if he’d been riding for a while, and in the hot California sun, I knew that was no small feat.
Pouring a glass full of the sweet, tangy liquid, I made my way back out to the porch. As soon as I stepped out of the door, and man jumped to his feet.
I tried hard to keep a smile off my face. This man was every bit a gentleman. He took the glass with another “much obliged.” And sat back down.
I took my seat and stacked the folded laundry back into the basket. When I was finished, I asked, “Where are you from?”
Swallowing another gulp of lemonade, he said, “Georgia, ma’am.”
Georgia. Well, that was a country away. I put my hand out. “My name’s Andi Prescott.”
For a second, I wondered if I had said something wrong. He quickly stood and shook my hand. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself right off, ma’am. My name’s Paul Sullivan. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Prescott.”
The way he said “Mrs.” made it sound more like “miss.” And then, he sat down again. Perhaps that was a custom I was not used to. Standing to introduce yourself.
“So, what brings you to California? That’s quite a ways away.”
It was a simple question, and I was surprised when he hesitated for a long time before answering. But even when he did, he didn’t meet my gaze.
No, he looked off across the fields as he spoke. “I wanted to try and start over. There are some things back east I’d like to forget.”
I knew I shouldn't pry. But he’d roused my curiosity. “Anything you’d care to share?”
For a moment, I was sure he’d simply say no. But then he looked up and met my gaze. There was something in his eyes . . . I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen someone appear so broken before. His words were soft, and as he spoke, he swirled the lemonade around in his glass. “I was a Confederate soldier way back when the War was going on. And there are some folks back East who will never forget what color uniform I wore.”
Well, I’ll have to finish this entry another time. I didn’t realize how late it is, and Riley’s already climbed into bed. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Taffy's Family Tree

I have had a request to make a Family Tree similar to Andi's Family Tree. I will post it here in Photo Fridays but also over on the Fan Fiction blog, where the request came in. Enjoy! For those of you who used to believe that Sebastian was a liver chestnut, well, his coloring has been changed to buckskin. Why, you may ask? Well, because I can do anything I want. LOL And I wanted to put a buckskin on the family tree.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dusty the Unloveable

A while back, somebody asked me about that bag of bones I got stuck with during the cattle drive (the drive I begged to go on for my quinceaƱera). They wanted to see a picture of "Dusty." I finally dug up a picture of him. Even after we'd been stuck with each other's company for three weeks, he and I don't get along too well.

See those ears? A little flicked back? That's Dusty in a happy mood. He is tolerating me standing next to him and gripping his halter. This is about as mellow as he gets.

Most times his ears stay pinned back so flat against his head that it looks like he's earless. And I am not kidding. At least his mouth is closed for the picture. Usually it's open, teeth showing, ready to nip an unsuspecting cow, horse, or human. Dusty got a taste of our poor wrangler, Flint, more than once during the three-week drive.

Luckily, I stayed out of range of those teeth most days. The only scary time was when I had to slip the bit in his mouth. But I'm fast! By the time Dusty bared his teeth to me, the bit was in, he was bridled and I was slamming a saddle down on his bony back.

No, I will never love Dusty. That dusty-brown gelding is completely unlovable. But I do respect him. He knows how to nip a stubborn cow and get it back with the herd. I've heard that Flint has taken a cautious liking to the ornery jug head. I showed him a few tricks about how to manage Dusty, and it appears that on the next cattle drive, Flint wants Dusty as part of his string (of horses).

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Slice of Life - 15

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that sometimes the family in your life who are the most difficult to be with are the ones who love you the most. Or at least, a great deal more than you’d ever imagine.
Today was the day to polish the furniture. A chore I still tend to despise. But I’d put it off as long as possible, and it was sorely needing to be done.
And so, as soon as the breakfast dishes were done and Riley headed out to the range, I resigned myself to the chore and collected the rag and a bowl of warm water. Soap wouldn’t do on the wood, as it would roughen it. But a damp cloth worked wonders. I started with the hutch in the dining room, the one that held all the dishes. It took me awhile to get into every nook and cranny, but I was determined that if I was going to tackle the job, I was going to do it right. That way I wouldn't have to do it again soon.
Once I was started, I realized it would probably be the hardest piece of furniture. The tables wouldn’t be too hard, nor would Riley’s desk and the headboard on the beds. But this… it was taking some doing.
When I finished at last, I decided to start in the living room next. Quickly, I started and finished both side tables.
By now, I could hear the animals outside as they came to life. The horses galloping across the pasture, kicking up dirt behind their hooves. No doubt the sun was warming the earth and drying the dew.
Oh, how I longed to be out there!
After I finished the table, I moved on to the cedar chest. It sat up against the far window across from the settee. Mother had filled it with all my childhood things, and ever since I had married, it had sat here. Unmoved and unopened.
Perhaps it was because I wanted to taste those days again, or perhaps it was because I only wanted to put off finishing the chore. Whatever the reason, I set the rag aside and opened the chest.
A flood of memories overwhelmed me as I saw a fluffy, huge hat sitting atop the neatly stacked blankets, hair ribbons, overalls, and photographs that had filled my childhood. I gently picked up the hat. It was nothing like the cowboy hat that normally sat on my head. No, this was a lady’s hat. It was white and big, with foo-foos on top. And came with a large muff.
Aunt Rebecca had brought it all the way from San Francisco. I remember how I despised that thing—and Aunt Rebecca—for insisting I wear it. It seemed horrid and ugly to my eleven-year-old mind. Worse even than the hat she’d brought when I was eight. What was it about Aunt Rebecca and hats?
This one was not fit for a ranch in my estimation.
And it was true. This fancy hat would never have lasted more than a day with me. Mother tucked it away and kept it safe. I only wore it to Sunday services whenever Aunt Rebecca visited in the wintertime—which wasn’t often, thank goodness. Auntie puffed up in pride when she saw that hat on me and my too-hot hands stuff into the muff. Heaven only knows why.  
Now, looking at the hat, I wish I had gotten to know Aunt Rebecca better. I mean really know her. After the letter from her that I opened on my wedding day, I realized there was a part of her I had never seen, a part I had never really cared to see. But now? What I wouldn’t give for one more day with her.
Why had I been so dad-blasted stubborn about keeping my distance? The three long weeks I spent with her in San Francisco the year of the scarlet fever outbreak was partly the reason I tried to avoid her after that. I’d had about enough of her bossing ways, even though my big sister Melinda kept telling me “Be patient. Don’t let Auntie rile you.” Clearly, Melinda was much wiser than I.
I blinked hard, keeping back the tears that sprang to my eyes. Why does it often take something like death to make us realize just how much a person means to us?
I put the hat back inside and gently closed the lid. That was enough memories for one day. I could never go back, so there was no use wishing. And I am happy with where God had led me in my life. Really, I am. It’s just that sometimes I get a pinch of longing for how things used to be.
Well, after that, it didn’t take long to finish the furniture. In fact, it took less time than I had expected. I headed outdoors to spend some time with the horses before it was time to start laundry.
The sun greeted my face as I stepped off the stairs, and I smiled. I couldn’t go back, but I could make every new day count. Starting with today. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Slice of Life - 14

       I have promised myself that this will be the final entry in my journal about Riley’s secret hideaway. Honestly, I had no idea I was such an author. But I couldn’t help myself and wrote my entry as though I were writing a book. Hmmm . . . a book about my life and my adventures. Now, there’s a thought.
       Maybe someday when I’m old and gray and have plenty of time to compile my journal entries into a book. But for now . . .
       I crawled through the rocky tunnel and stood up, but I was unprepared for what I saw. A few feet away, a cold, gushing spring bubbled up from under the rocks and swiftly flowed toward a glade that seemed surreal.
       Truly, the California foothills are anything but lush in the fall. The Golden State is golden because of the yellowish-brown (dead) grass for miles and miles all up and down the Sierras. Only at the higher elevations, where the source of water has not been completely depleted, are the trees tall and cool, and the undergrowth still green.
       Not here. Not when it hasn’t rained for weeks and weeks.
       This glade didn’t seem to notice the lack of summer rains.
       The water emptied into a small pond, which was surrounded by a thick, clover carpet. Wildflowers that I had not seen since last spring grew in bunches near the pond. Aspens and poplars grew thickly.
       I heard a “ribbit—ribbit” and the sound caught me off guard. Frogs? In September? Birds of all kinds—probably the only creatures who could easily access this place—flew in and out. Swallows snapped up insects mid-air. The birds looked plump and well fed.
       I stood speechless with wonder. I suddenly didn’t care if Riley had been right and I had been wrong. This place was indeed a secret hideaway. My eyes couldn’t drink in the beauty fast enough.
       I looked around to get my bearings. The entire glade was surrounded by tall rock “guards.” Just above the eastern edge, the highest peaks of the Sierra peeked out.
       Now I know why Cory and I had never found this place. We'd gone around the whole rock formation. I was pretty sure we had stood just on the other side of the eastern formation and never knew what lay so close. But completely impossible to get to.
       Until Riley found it.
       Riley came up from behind and put his arms around me. “Well, what do you think?”
       I turned and looked up into his smiling face. “Oh, Riley. I never dreamed of anything like this. How did you ever find it?”
       He pushed back his hat. “By accident. I was after a pesky coyote—”
        I scowled.
       “Yeah, I’m afraid this hideaway is not perfect. Anyway, I followed it into the rocks and lo and behold, it eventually ducked through the tunnel, and when I came out . . .” He waved his arm. “I saws this. Oh, and I got the coyote, by the way.” He took my hand. “Come on.”
       This time I followed gladly. We made our way along the bubbling creek and to the pond. The grass felt like velvet when I sat down. I crawled to the edge of the water. For a wonder, the pond was clear as glass. The sun shone down on the surface, and I saw the Banded Rocks reflected back picture-perfect.
       The sun wouldn’t be around for long, though. The entire glade wasn’t very large. Too soon the sun would slip behind the western cliffs and this special hideaway would be cast into shadows.
       By the looks of it, we had a couple of hours to enjoy this place. No fish lived in the pond, but plenty of other critters did—water bugs, dragonflies, frogs.
Riley laid a hand on my shoulder and pointed. A rabbit doe with a litter of late-season bunnies hopped into the clover and began munching. I sat perfectly still. The little ones scampered and chased each other, but the mama rabbit looked nervous. Every few seconds she sat high on her haunches and looked around. I’m pretty sure she scented us.
We watched the rabbits for probably ten minutes, when suddenly a large shadow appeared overhead. I knew what it was, and so did the rabbits. A hawk swooped low, and the bunnies scattered.
I held my breath. Please, not the bunnies!
It was silly, I know. Hawks have to eat and feed their babies too, but I couldn’t help letting out a sigh of relief when the hawk's intended targets ducked into a clump of bushes. The bird missed them by a whisker.
The rest of our time there passed in such a way that I will always keep this adventure high on my “best ever” list. Riley and I talked and talked and talked. I can’t remember all the details. There was something about this secret hideaway that made both of us feel lazy and restful. Maybe it was the sound of trickling water, or maybe the smell of something fresh and green and wet in the middle of the usual California fall drought. Whatever it was, I really didn’t want to leave.
Too late I remembered our lunch. I had left it tied to Shasta's saddle horn. Oh, well! Riley and I forgot about the time until the shadow of the rocks cut off the sunshine.
“We’d best get back,” Riley finally said. He too sounded loath to go. “The horses have not had such a nice time as we have had.”
Shasta and Dakota were tied to an old scrub pine in the middle of a rock pile. No, not a nice time at all. But they would be fine. It was cool and shady there and we’d watered them not long before we’d reached the Banded Rocks.
As we retraced our steps—through the tunnel, crisscrossing a number of turns in the rock maze, and finally stumbling out to the sound of welcoming whinnies—I tried to memorize the route.
Riley knew what I was thinking. “I want your promise not to come here alone.”
I furrowed my brow. It wasn’t dangerous, so why—
“Mostly I want this to be our special spot," he explained. "The other one was yours alone. This was mine, but I’m sharing it with you.”
When Riley put it that way, I was in total agreement. Yes, this was our special spot. Nobody else would ever, ever find out about it. Someday we would bring our children here, and wouldn’t they have a jolly time!
I saw in my mind’s eye four or five giggling children, one shouting from Riley’s shoulders. They were building camps and scattering the wildlife from one end of the glade to the other. Drinking gallons of lemonade and eating sandwiches and cookies on a Sunday afternoon outing.
Riley and I would be resting on the blanket, keeping watch so a baby didn’t toddle into the pond.
      My heart swelled in expectation. I can’t wait . . .