Friday, December 15, 2017

A Circle C Milestones Story . . . Part 5

Go here to begin this story: PART 1


Andi caught her breath. What was that thing? A badger? A small bobcat? A—
The spotted animal let out a tiny, pitiful mew. Tucker yipped, clearly surprised, and sniffed it.  
Andi’s heart melted. A cougar cub!
No wonder the mountain lion had not run off, not even when gunshots had certainly scared it half to death. She was protecting her baby, and nothing would move her.
Tears sprang to Andi’s eyes. I killed its mother.
Too late to worry about that now. If I hadn’t shot the cat, it would have killed Riley for sure.
But still, Andi had always loved kittens, and the poor creature mewing around its mother’s dead carcass looked like a lost kitten—albeit a big one.  
Riley came first, however. Andi ignored the pitiful cries and hurried to Riley’s side. She unscrewed the top of her canteen and helped Riley drink draught after draught of the cool liquid. “You hungry?” she asked.
Riley made a face. “Not really. I just want to lie here quietly and thank the good Lord I’m alive.”
“Well, I’m starved.” Andi dug around in the basket and drew out a sandwich, which she gobbled up in five quick bites. Buried under the napkin-wrapped bundles, she found a battered coffee pot, a small jar of cream, and a packet of coffee. “Shall I kindle a fire and make you a hot cup of coffee before we start back? I even brought cream along, since I know how much you like it in your coffee.”
No answer. “Riley?” She turned and paused at the sight. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Circle C Milestones Christmas Story . . . Part 4

Go here to begin this story: PART 1


The horses had known all along. Tucker was also proclaiming it loud and clear.
A mountain lion prowled nearby. It had probably seen Riley. For sure it saw Tucker. But surely the cat wouldn’t stalk a man! Normally, the tawny-colored beasts were skittish and kept well away from humans.
Well, it’s here now!
Andi whirled. Her gaze flew to the rifle that lay on the bottom of the wagon bed. She leaped over the seat and landed in the back of the wagon a few inches from the weapon. Her shaking fingers curled around the warm iron barrel, where it had soaked up the sun.
Thank you, God, that Riley never goes anywhere without his rifle!
Clutching the rifle to her chest. Andi scrambled over the wagon side and dropped to the ground with a thunk. She groaned. Then she took a deep breath and staggered to her feet. “Riley!” She yelled, but her words came out as a choked cry.
She heard a low snarl. Tucker wouldn’t stop barking.   
Andi’s heart raced. “Riley!” This time it came out as a terrified shriek.
“Tucker, back!” Riley’s voice sounded far away. “Don’t come near!” Riley’s voice sounded far away.
Part of Andi’s numbed mind tried to figure out her husband’s command. Was he yelling at Tucker or her? The other part of her mind screamed, Riley has only a small dog and an ax. An ax against a cougar! I have the rifle!
Fear for Riley’s life made Andi’s feet fly through the woods. Then she stopped. You idiot!
There was no need to shoot the beast. Just firing the rifle would most likely scare it off. It had scared away that other cougar all those years ago when she’d shot a rifle through the window of a shack.
But that had been a dark night. Who knew what a mountain lion might do during the day? A possibly hungry mountain lion.
Crack! Crack! Andi fired two shots into the air. Crack! She fired one more for good measure. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Milestones Christmas Story . . . Part 3

Go here to begin this story: PART 1


It was barely noon when Riley pulled the wagon to a stop near a likely stand of trees. “What do you think about these, Andi?”
Andi jerked her head up. She’d been dozing off and on the last half hour. “Huh? What?”
“You all right?” Riley asked, squinting down at her.
“Oh, sure. It’s just that the last few miles of any trip wears a body down. I’m cramped and tired of sitting on this hard seat. What did you ask me?”
Riley waved his arm toward the trees. “Any of these strike your fancy?”
Andi studied the stand. White fir, with a sprinkling of Douglas fir, grew at varying heights. These trees looked all right, but a white-tipped red fir was more to her liking. However . . .
They would have to go much higher than this to find a solid stand of red fir. They grew above 5,000 feet, and already the horses looked winded from the climb. Andi shaded her eyes. And was that snow up there? Probably, she decided.
And I’m so tired!
“Yes, three of these should do just fine,” she decided at last. “So long as you can find at least one of them ten feet high for the ranch house. The parlor there has a higher ceiling than either Justin’s place or our sitting room.” She gave him a challenging look.
“Let’s go then.” Riley jumped down from the wagon seat. “You are going to pick out these trees, m’dear. I’ll cut them down.” He grinned and gave Andi a hand to the ground. “You’re the experienced Carter Christmas tree lady, after all.”
The two of them tramped through the forest, chatting and laughing. Tucker raced back and forth, tail wagging, clearly happy to be on an adventure with Riley and Andi.
Andi couldn’t decide which tree she liked best. One looked tall enough, but some of the branches near the top were dead and bare. Another showed deer damage smack in the center of the tree. Still another had a crooked trunk. Two more looked tall enough for her own home, but either one would look puny in Mother’s parlor.
“Hmmm,” Andi pondered. “It’s hard to decide.”
“They all look alike to me,” Riley said, leaning against the trunk of a giant Ponderosa pine. He whacked the grooved, orange-colored bark. “Sure you don’t want me to saw this one down?”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Milestones Christmas Story . . . Part 2

Go here to begin this story--PART 1


Hurry, hurry! Andi told herself the next morning. Before Riley changes his mind and goes off on his own.
It was one thing to have the softly setting sun move Riley to agree to let Andi go along on an all-day trek into the high country. It was an entirely different matter to look at it in the clean air of a new day.
If he knew my secret, he would  never in a thousand years let me go along, Andi thought. A twinge of guilt for keeping something from Riley tweaked her conscience, but she brushed it off.
After all, Andi had accompanied her brothers a number of times since she’d grown up. It certainly was not a dangerous journey. Just a long day. And a long hike on snowshoes when they were forced to abandon the wagon and horses not far above the snowline.
But not today! Riley was right. The snowline was so high this year that they could take the wagon all the way to where the best trees grew.
“Why!” Andi giggled as she packed a good supply of food and blankets. “We can probably back the wagon right up to the trees of our choice, cut them down, and let each one drop into the wagon bed.”
Her spirits rose high as a circling hawk. This would be the most fun ever! Just she and Riley, an ax and a saw, a picnic lunch, and a couple of horses. She twirled in a quick circle and suddenly felt dizzy. Her arms splayed out. She gasped and caught herself just in time on the edge of the table.
Settle down, girl, she warned herself silently. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Milestones Christmas Story . . . Part 1

You will forgive Mrs. M, I'm sure, when you see that she has been working on a Christmas story for Milestones fans, i.e. a story about Andi and Riley's first Christmas. It is six parts (so far), but Mrs. M is not quite finished, so it may end up longer. She post a new part every day this week, starting today.

It's not quite a slice-of-life journal post, but pretty close! Merry Christmas!

The Unforgettable Christmas

December 1886

Every year since eighteen-year-old Andrea Carter Prescott could remember, the Christmas holidays always began with her three big brothers going up into the Sierras to cut down the family tree. When she was very small, Andi waited all day long with much anticipation to see what kind of tree they would bring home.
In those days, Father went along, and he would come home all smiles and toss Andi up in the air. “Andrea, just see what your brothers and I brought home this year. A very tall tree, and thick enough for you to climb!”
But Father never let Andi climb it. Nor did he or Mother let her have anything to do with the candles, which shone bright and cheery from every other branch. “They are too dangerous,” Mother always warned. “Keep away from them. You don’t want to burn down the house, do you?”
Andi always obeyed that restriction.
Later, after Father died, the boys kept up the tradition. When Andi was nine years old, Justin, Chad, and Mitch let her go along. Melinda was away at school in San Francisco, and besides, her sister was never too eager to go along on any tree-cutting expeditions.
Andi found out why not soon enough.
After an unexpected blizzard sent Andi and her brothers  hiding out all night long under the wagon—with the icy wind and snow whipping around them—she decided it might be better to wait until she was much, much older to go with them again. It was more fun—and warmer—to meet the boys at the door and help decorate the white fir or Douglas fir or red fir than to freeze half to death. 
Andi  was telling Riley all about this Circle C holiday tradition one evening in early December. They sat out on the front porch and watched the sun go down in a blaze of color. Andi wore a light sweater, and Riley a flannel shirt. The hills had not yet seen the onset of rains and mud. Just sunny days and cool, crisp nights.
Perfect weather for working. But not perfect weather for getting into the Christmas spirit.
“I thought it might be fun to start the same kind of tradition in our own family,” Andi ventured. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Coming Your Way . . .

Watch for a brand-new, never-published Milestones story featuring Andi and Riley. Coming to a computer or mobile device near you starting Monday.

Sneak Peek: It's Andi and Riley's first Christmas on their new Memory Creek ranch. Trouble is, Andi is a bit homesick for her family's holiday traditions . . . especially the one about going up into the high country to cut down the perfect Christmas tree. Can Andi convince Riley to start their own tradition? And will he let Andi go along if he discovers her secret?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Audio Books!

I'm very excited. I finally got around to checking into having the Circle C Books made into audio books. I'm starting at the beginning, with the Beginnings and the Stepping Stones, but if all goes well (and it doesn't cost me an arm or a leg), I will also do the Adventures.

I found a narrator whom I love. Here are some excerpts.

Pony Trouble scene one

Pony Trouble scene two

Andi Saddles Up scene one

Andi Saddles Up scene two

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fun Stuff Now Available

A couple of fans have asked this question: "What if I don't win the writing contest? Can I still buy the journal?" Others at times have asked about how they can buy the Circle C poster. The answer is now YES, you can buy the Circle C Adventures journal (and more) here on the FUN STUFF part of my website.

In addition to the Circle C Adventures journal ($6.00) and the poster ($3.00) (plus shipping), I am creating a fun journal for young readers and writers too. AND one for boys! Here are some pictures. The journals for young readers and for the Goldtown won't be ready for another month. But I thought you might enjoy the pictures.

And a question. What kind of fun products would you like to see in the Fun Stuff section of my web store. Feel free to leave ideas in the comments, and I'll see what I can do.



Monday, November 20, 2017

A Slice of Life - 18

One would think that we had enough animals as it was. I mean, living on a ranch, it’s not exactly like we have a shortage of our four footed friends.
However, Riley didn’t think so. Yesterday, he walked into the kitchen just before supper, a grin on his face and his hands clasped behind his back in a curious manner.
I set down the wooden spoon I had been using to stir the tomato sauce, and wiped my hands on my apron. “What do you have there?”
A moment later, a squirming, warm, tiny ball of fur had been shoved into my arms, and a wet tongue attacked my face. 
“What do you think?” Riley stepped up beside me and put a hand on the little dog’s head. “Isn’t he something?”
I smiled, admiring the little white and brown dog. “Yes, he is. Where did you get him?”
“One of the ranch hands found him. It looks like he somehow got separated from his mama. I couldn’t very well let him stay out there, could I?”
“Oh, no, of course not.” Riley and I both chuckled. He had a soft spot for dogs, and I couldn’t blame him. I was a bit partial to them, as well. And they were always handy to have on a ranch.
           The little guy squirmed again, working to get free. A moment later, the acrid smell of burning tomatoes greeted my nostrils. “Oh, the tomato sauce!” I placed the puppy back in Riley’s arms, and turned. 
The few minutes on the fire had left the bottom burned, and I groaned as I grabbed a hot pad and pushed it off the burner. “Well, there goes supper.”
Riley pressed a kiss to my hair. “I don’t mind burned tomatoes, Andi.”
“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have to put up with them,” I grumbled under my breath.
A moment later, the little puppy lunged forward, and Riley quickly caught him before he landed in the pot of sauce. “Well, this little guy seems like he’s hungry for your food.”
I shot Riley a glare. “Are you insulting my cooking?”
He took a step back, as if trying to take back whatever he might have said. “No, of course not. So. What do you want to name him?”
The pot safely away from the heat, I turned back to the little dog and ran my hand across his back. He was rather adorable. “Are we going to keep him?”
Riley cleared his throat. ‘Well, since we hadn’t found his mother and, well, you know, he--”
I laughed, interrupting him. “Admit it, Riley. You love him.”
“Guess I can’t hide anything from you.”
“Nope. So don’t even try.” I wracked my brain for a name that would fit the little animal. “Maybe something like Trevor would fit him. He looks like a Trevor.”
Riley considered it a moment, and then nodded. “All right, Trevor it is. And we can call him Trev for short.”
That settled, he took the dog out to the barn, while I finished supper.
So, that’s how we have another dog. Tucker doesn’t seem to mind him, and I think the two will get along well. Though, I suppose only time will tell.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Adoption Story #4

WHO WANTS TO ADOPT A LITTLE BOY -- A Widow, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that she would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. Michell, No. 471 Houston-st, corner of the Bowery.
Mrs. Michell buried her face in her hands and sobbed. She had tried so hard---so very hard to make ends meet. She had failed. She knew she wouldn’t be able to support her five children with the meager income she made from cleaning houses. Her eight year old son was growing fast, and he needed to eat! She had been in emotional turmoil, torn between what her child needed and what she needed. She finally resigned herself to her fate. Her youngest son, James, would be going up for adoption.
“James, some very nice people will be taking you on a trip for a while. You’ll have fun and you won’t even have time to miss me before we are back together.” She forced a cheerful smile and laugh.
James’s eyes shone with trust. “Yes, ma’am.”
With those two little words, Mrs. Michell’s heart broke. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Photo Friday: Christmas Story-Writing Challenge

Prize: journal, bookmark, and pen
 Who wants to win a journal, a glossy horse bookmark, and a Circle C pen, with which to write in your journal? Below is a writing challenge . . . just in time for Christmas.

If you remember the other photo challenge (Go HERE and scroll down to see the Valentine POV contest and the June 2016 contest for samples), then you'll know I'll have some fun prizes for the best story. Also, the story will be used as a freebie for my email subscribers in a future mailing some year (I have a story for this Christmas. Stay tuned.)

Contest Ends December 20. Send your entries to I need at least ten entries to run the contest. If I receive a lot of entries, I'll award a prize to two winners: one for the Milestones picture and another journal, bookmark, and pen for the Stepping Stones story. Have fun!

Here's how it works: Choose one of the pictures below and write a 1,000 to 3,000 word Christmas-type story. (Or write one for each picture and improve your chances!) I will have one of my awesome contest judges read and decide. I'll read them all too, but I like to have outside judges because it's so hard to choose!

PICTURE ONE Circle C Milestones:Yep, that's Andi in front, but she's not riding Shasta. Why not? And who is that heavyset fellow following her? More importantly . . . who is that blond woman bringing up the rear? And where is Riley? Where are the rest of Andi's family? And what are they doing way up above the snowline in the Sierras? (These are just ideas to get your brain working. You can write whatever you want!)

PICTURE TWO Circle C Stepping Stones: What in the world is Andi doing in the middle of a snowy woods all alone? Or is she alone? How did she get here? Where is she headed? Is it a fun tumble in the snow with her friends or something dangerous? You decide! Or write something completely different, as long as it has something to do with the picture. 


 Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories #3

And the stories keep rolling in! This one is from Sadie.

WANTED -- [someone] to ADOPT a lovely and interesting female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.    

Catharine stared at the newspaper ad in her hand and, after a moment, let it drop to the floor.

The baby was sleeping in the other room. Catharine still hadn’t named her, as most suggested it would be better if the new family chose the name for their adopted daughter. But she’s my daughter.

A single tear coursed down Catherine’s cheek and she hastily brushed it away. She couldn’t let Martha see her crying, she’d only scold. “The babe will have a better life, Catharine, you know that!”

Catharine did know.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories #2

Grace C. wrote a story to go along with the little boy whom someone placed an ad for to be adopted.
WHO WANTS TO ADOPT A LITTLE BOY -- A Widower, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that he would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. Michell, No. 471 Houston-st, corner of the Bowery. 
Home Sweet Home

            “Be a good boy, Henry,” my mother said, coughing hard into her handkerchief. My father looked at her worriedly.
            “There, Rachel,” he said, adjusting the pillows behind her.
            “Be a good boy,” my mother said in her weak, raspy voice, “and mind your sister.” She smiled at me, a tear trickling down her cheek. She began to cough once more.
            “That just what I was afraid of, Rachel. Don’t speak anymore,” my father pleaded.  She shook her head.
            “Mary, help your father.” 
             My mother leaned back onto her pillows and closed her eyes.
            “Go on, now, children.” Mrs. Michell, who had come to look after us while Mother was sick, herded us out of the room. My sister Mary was crying.
            “Mary,” I asked, the thought dawning on me for the first time, “is Mother going to die?” 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Adoption Ad Stories

A couple of you rose to the challenge and wrote stories about the pictures of children put up for adoption in the 1800s. They are very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.
First up is a story by Emmalee regarding this picture and ad. (I will post the other story tomorrow.)
WANTED -- [someone] to ADOPT a lovely and interesting female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.   

         Five-month-old Clara Davis looked up at her mother with curious eyes.  Catharine, Clara’s mother looked over at her and her other five children. The children’s father had passed away leaving Catharine with nothing to support all her children. She would have to do something that she had tried to never think about much less talk about with her children. However today was the day Catharine had to decide. She looked at each of her children with love and pride. When Catharine made her decision, she put each of the children to bed and sat thinking about the hard day to come. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Slice of Life - 17

This entry shows the truth of the Proverbs, “Pride goeth before destruction . . .” 

Destruction of peaches, that is.

Like I wrote in my previous entry, I was feeling mighty proud of myself. I’d skinned those beautiful golden orbs. I cut them in half. I dug out the unsightly peach pit. I packed the halves one on top of another until the jar was full of sticky, sweet fruit.  

Yes sirree, how hard could it be to watch seven jars boil? 

Mother showed me how to use the long-handled, pincher-like jar lifter to pick up the jars and lower them into the simmering water.

This looked easy as pie. 

“Make sure you keep that water boiling good and hard,” Mother instructed. “It can’t cool down. And keep a finger length of water over the top of the jars.“ Then she turned aside and left me to my task. 

The simmering water was smooth as glass. Little tendrils of steam rose. It wasn’t boiling so I took Mother’s words to heart. I stoked up the cook stove (I’m very good at that) and got the fire hotter. 

It wasn’t but a few minutes until the water began to turn over in a nice, rolling boil. Perfect! No peaches would go bad after boiling int his cauldron!

Pleased as punch with myself, I latched on to the first jar and lifted it high. I lowered it into the water as quick as I could in order to get them all boiling at the same time. 

I heard a quiet “pop” over the sound of the sizzling water. Hmmm, what was that? No matter. The jar looked fine. I went after another one. 

Soon, seven lovely jars of peaches were boiling away. I put the large lid on top and checked the time. While the peaches boiled, I went back to filling jars and eating peaches. 

Canning peaches was not that difficult. So far, I had not made one mistake. Wouldn’t Riley be proud? And Mother too. 

I kept the fire stoked, and barely noticed the sweat dripping down the back of my neck. Two dozen jars of processed peaches stood in rows on the counter like proud soldiers. Seven more would soon join them. 

When exactly thirty minutes had passed, I grabbed the jar lifter and lifted the canner’s lid. The water was boiling along. 

I picked up the first jar by its lid and—

Splash! Hot water jumped out at me. Ouch! The jar came up with the jar lifter, but the peaches did not. They tumbled around in the boiling water; some floated near the top. The jar was empty--and--missing its bottom?

I was so shocked I just stood there staring at my jar lifter and the empty jar. The bottom of the jar really was missing. Gone. Vanished.  

What in the world? I set the broken jar aside and went after the next full one in the canner. 

Splash! I was left holding another empty jar. More peaches joined the others. 
I caught my breath. This couldn't be happening! 

I glanced at the rows of cooling peaches. The bottoms had not fallen out of Mother’s jars. Or Ellie’s.  

I looked into the canner. The five remaining jars stood up straight. They looked perfect. 

I did not feel very confident now, but the jars must come out. I pinched the top of another jar, squeezed my eyes shut, and carefully lifted it from the water.

At last! The jar looked fine. I let out a sigh of relief and carried it over to the others. Then I fished around for the next jar. It too came up with the lifter. Then splash, splash, splash, the last three jars came up empty.  

I peeked behind my shoulder. So far, Mother and Ellie had not seen this little drama playing out. They were peeling and pitting peaches.“M-mother,” I stammered, holding the last empty jar.

She turned around. Ellie turned too and gasped. She clapped a hand over her mouth. 
“My heavens!” Mother exclaimed and hurried over. “How many jars—”

She broke off when she saw two full jars of peaches and five empty, bottomless jars. “Andrea!” Her breath came out in a whoosh.

“Oh, Mother, what did I do wrong?” I felt near to tears. This was so humiliating.

Ellie joined Mother and me at the cook stove. The water continued to bubble merrily. The peaches rolled and floated.

All those peaches! Five jars full! I slumped, defeated. What a waste!

Mother wrinkled her forehead. “Did you put the jars into the simmering water before you stoked the fire?”

I shook my head. “You told me to make sure the water was boiling good and hard. I got it boiling then put the jars in.”

“Oh, dear,” Mother said in a quiet voice. “I’m sorry, Andrea. I thought you knew not to put a glass jar into boiling water. It needs to heat up slowly.”

No, actually I didn't know that. But I knew how to lasso and help in a troubled foaling. Did that count? Probably not in this case. I took a deep breath. Well, live and learn. I would never make that mistake again. The funny thing was that these jars hadn’t broken on impact. Those sneaky things had quietly popped out their bottoms but held together the whole time they were boiling. Just waiting to surprise me when I removed them.

Oooh! It would have been a thousand times better to see the first jar break when it first touched the water. I would have at least been on my guard.

But these five jars had taken me completely by surprise.

This disaster put us behind. Mother and I fished the rest of the peaches. “It’s not a total waste, sweetheart,” she tried to comfort me. “We will rinse the peaches well to make sure no glass particles stuck to them, and then we can make a lovely peach cobbler for supper.”

I nodded, but peach cobbler didn’t sound very good just then.

The huge enamel water bath canner had to be dumped out and refilled with water. Then began the long, long wait to bring the water up to simmering for the next bath. It took about an hour. Sigh.

Ellie rinsed the peaches, and I fished out the five jar bottoms. It was the most peculiar thing. Each bottom fit perfectly onto its matching jar. No cracks. No splinters. I shook my head. Those traitorous jars!

No, I corrected. This was my own fault. 

The next time I looked at the clock it was six o’clock. I was dead tired. And still not hungry.

Riley came home to a kitchen overflowing with sticky counters, a sticky table, peach peelings, crocks of peach pits, and four dozen jars of peaches.
Oh, and a peach cobbler Mother had whipped up.

“It smells wonderful in here,” Riley said smiling, and helped himself to a huge dish of cobbler. “Don’t worry about supper,” he told me. “I ate with the hands. I knew you’d be done in after all this peach business.”

I love that man!

Perhaps tomorrow things will go better. We put up a little over half of the bushels. Ellie and Mother have promised to return. I think I’ll know what I’m doing by then.

Practice makes perfect!