Thursday’s Throwback with Donna Schlachter

Free chapter excerpt and Giveaway!

Today I have Historical Christian fiction author, Donna Schlachter here to share her novel, Christmas Under the Stars.

This romantic suspense is set in Utah Territory in 1858 at the height of the westward expansion and wagon trains.  Edie is traveling west with her brother to meet up with another brother and his family who went ahead of them. Edie’s father was an itinerant preacher who barely managed to keep his family together. Tom is heading to California to hopefully start a church. Already we can see problems, at least as far as Edie is concerned. And although Tom is attracted to Edie, once he’s introduced to her and hears she shares the same name as the man traveling with her, he assumes they are husband and wife.

Although he didn’t ask for it, Tom is soon appointed as head of their wagon train, and a series of accidents and unfortunate circumstances threaten to sabotage their journey. But are these incidents more than that? Or is someone determined to prevent them from reaching their destination?

Through miscommunication and misunderstandings, Edie and Tom muddle through as best they know how, which is true of many of the emigrants. And the good news is that just like the travelers of the time, they do make it, although a little the worse for wear.

Get your copy!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq 

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2gZATjm


November 1858, Utah Territory
Edie Meredith strives to keep her temper and her tongue under control as she heads west with her brother to California. Raised in an itinerant preacher family, she promises she will never marry a man of the cloth.
 
Tom Aiken, drover of the wagon train, longs to answer his true calling: to preach, and while he realizes not every woman would choose a preacher for a husband, he hopes to soon find his help-meet.
 
Suspicious ‘accidents’ plague their journey. Is someone trying to keep them from reaching their destination? Or will misunderstanding and circumstances keep them apart?


Enter the Giveaway

Leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing for a print copy (US only) or ebook version of Christmas Under the Stars.


Read a chapter excerpt

Tom Aitken strode beside the lead wagon in the train, encouraging on the two lumbering oxen he could hear but not see. “Git on Blue, git on. Brick.” The beasts lowered their heads at the sound of his voice and strained into the traces. Tom grit his teeth against another blast of cold air blowing from the Canadian Rockies.

What had he been thinking, taking a wagon train to Echo at this time of year? He’d focused on the offer of free passage to California. Free, indeed. Might not have cost him any money, but the two-month journey was surely grinding years off his life. 

Digging his hands into his armpits, seeking some warmth, no matter how small, he trudged along, head down, wishing for a heavier coat. Echo was just a few more miles up this canyon. In good weather, a half day’s travel.

In this storm, forever.

As he debated whether to pull the wagon train off the trail and set up camp for the night, a faint cry echoed off the rock walls behind him. He slowed his step, allowing the oxen to pass him, waiting to hear the sound again. Nothing. He pivoted on one foot to trace his steps back, straining to see who was calling and whether they were friend or foe. Having spotted Indians several times over the past week or so, he was determined to stay alert.

Nothing but swirling, blinding snow. Lots of it.

He must have been hearing things. Probably just the wind echoing down off the canyon walls. No doubt where Echo got its name. He turned to face forward and felt someone – or something – press on his shoulder. His right hand on the knife in a sheath at his waist, he whirled around, ready to fight.

The man in the second-to-last wagon stood before him, face white with cold – or fear – and hands raised in surrender. His rough Irish brogue bespoke his heritage, and his coarse woolen coat and muffler his financial status. “I can’t find the Meredith woman.”

“I saw her maybe a ‘alf hour ago, when the wind stopped blowin’ long enough to see me ‘and in front of me face. Me missus remarked then that the lass was looking peaked.”

Tom grit his teeth against the sharp retort rising. Must he be like a mother hen to these travelers? No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than he repented of his hardness of heart. Lord, forgive me. Help her. Please. For her husband’s sake.

His silent prayer done, Tom gestured to his wagon. “Take my place as lead. Keep them straight on the trail. We’ve got just about twelve miles to go.”

The man nodded and Tom stopped, allowing the rest of the train to pass him. Although the rule was that only the very young, very old, and very sick got to ride in the wagons, sometimes folks hitched a ride when they were exhausted.

He sighed, his breath escaping like a puff of smoke from a chimney, carried off on the northerly gale. He’d have to check every wagon that passed to see if she’d climbed aboard.

If she hadn’t – well, he’d pray she was curled up in a pile of quilts rather than consider the alternative.

Tom plowed through a snowdrift nearly up to his chest. Edie Meredith wasn’t in any of the wagons. Her husband, Mark, as leader of the final wagon in the train, had been walking at the head of his team to keep them on the trail and hadn’t noticed when she’d gone missing. Tom stopped the train, and word passed up and down the line until all of the wagons paused. Women-folk and children climbed aboard their wagons to warm up, and the men divided into several groups to go in search of Miss Meredith.

 The man accompanying Tom heaved along behind him, his breath sounding labored in the cold air. Harnesses jingled as the huge oxen shook themselves and got comfortable as they waited, and questions chased him as he traveled the length of the train.

“Found her yet?”

“What was she wearing?”

“Prob’ly find her froze to death.”

Tom shook off this last comment and pressed on. No, he would find her before that happened. He’d noticed the pretty young woman the instant he joined the wagon train, her red hair lighting up into a thousand pinpoints of gold in the afternoon sun. Freckles dotted across the bridge of her nose as she stared at him, a smile creeping across her face.

But that was as far as their relationship was likely to go. The broad-shouldered hulk standing next to her, laying claim to her with his protective attitude and gruff voice was enough to keep any sensible man in his place. No siree, her husband was not to be trifled with. Mark and Edie Meredith. That’s how they were introduced to him. That plus Meredith’s, “She’s spoken for” when she’d smiled and bobbed her head at him, was enough to keep any sane man a sensible distance away. No matter how he might wish the situation could be otherwise.

For now, he would look for her because that was his job. 

And he was good at his job. Rather, his two jobs. Drover by day and preacher by night. Such a strange combination of occupations, he was certain. Still, the good Lord knew what He was doing, and drovering was just until he got to California. Then he would start his own church at the first town that needed him.

Tom peered into the storm, the faint outline of a shadow forming ahead of him, to the side of the trail. As he neared, he could have sworn he heard singing. A soft, lilting melody, like a lullaby.

A few more steps, and he paused over the form on the ground. Already snow gathered on her cheeks, filling in the concave hollows of her eyes, testifying to how cold her skin was that the particles didn’t melt.

He knelt beside her, fearing the worst. In a neat pile beside her, a pair of gloves and a shawl. Her coat unbuttoned, she looked dead.

But there, a slight flare of her nostrils confirmed there was life in her yet. He turned back to the man following him. “Over here. Over here.” 

The man came running, and together they lifted the unconscious woman and carried her to the nearest wagon. She needed warming up, and soon. 

He called to the man he’d put in the lead. “Pull the train over toward the palisades. There should be some caves around here that we can overnight in.”

The men hastened to do his bidding, and the wagon beneath him lurched, throwing him off balance. He landed in a tangle against Miss Meredith and stared into her green eyes, wide open in surprise.

 No doubt about it. She was beautiful. Tendrils of damp hair at her temples decorated her pale skin. But he couldn’t sit here admiring her. She was nearly frozen to death. Her blue lips and white complexion scared him. 

“What do you mean, man? Speak up.”

He was alone in a wagon with a desirable woman who needed his help. 

He unbuttoned his jacket and pulled her to his chest. The sudden chill took his breath away, but he persisted in his ministrations. As the heat flowed from him, he was gratified to note color returning to her lips. 

Her hands pressed against his chest, and he increased his grip on her. She needed warmth now. He’d heard of folks dying in the snow who’d stripped down to their underclothing.

He glanced at the woman now resting quietly in his arms, wishing he was holding her so close, so intimately, for a different reason.       

But she belonged to another.

He had no choice.


About Donna

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 40 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of several writing communities; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly; and judges in writing contests.

Tuesday’s Teaser with Donna Schlachter

Double Jeopardy

 

Today I have Donna Schlachter talking about her new book, Double Jeopardy Welcome, Donna.

How would you describe your main character(s)?

Becky is naïve about a lot of things, but she loves her daddy. Despite her mother’s warnings, she heads off to Colorado certain she’s going to find what she’s looking for.

Zeke lives, eats, and breathes cattle ranching. He won’t fail his parents, and he won’t lose his legacy. And nobody better get in his way. Not even that pretty girl from New York City.

What is the problem your character(s) face in your book?

Becky wants to keep her father’s dream alive, but she doesn’t have a clue how to go about doing that. She also vows to find her father’s killer, something else she’s ill-equipped for.

Zeke wants to save his ranch, but for that, he needs money. He’s not afraid of hard work, but falling for his friend’s daughter—well, that’s something else. And to make matters worse, she’d make a poor rancher’s wife.

What would you like your readers to know about your character(s)?

They are just like us, full of dreams and ideas about how life should be. And when the truth hits them square in the face, they don’t know where to turn. But God doesn’t let them wallow in their despair. He is ever present, leading them to a good outcome in Him.


Read a free chapter excerpt from Double Jeopardy.

Dead. Dead as her dreams and her hopes.

Dead as a doornail, as her mother would say.

Just thinking about the woman drove a steel rod through Becky Campbell’s slumping back.

Perched on a chair in the sheriff’s office, she drew a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and raised her chin a notch. She would not be like the woman who birthed her. Pretty and pampered. A silly socialite finding nothing better to do with her days than tea with the mayor’s spinster daughter or bridge with the banker’s wife.

No, she’d much rather be like her father. Adventuresome. Charismatic. Always on the lookout for the next big thing.

Now her breath came in a shudder, and down went her shoulders again. She tied her fingers into knots before looking up at the grizzled lawman across the desk from her. “There’s no chance there’s been a mistake in identification, is there?”

He slid open the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a pocket watch, a lapel pin, and a fountain pen, which he pushed across the desk to her. “He was pretty well-known around here. I’m really sorry, miss.”

Becky picked up the timepiece and flicked open the cover. Inside was a photograph of her family, taken about ten years earlier when she was a mere child of eight and Father stayed around long enough to sit still for the portrait. Her mother, petite and somber, and she, all ringlets and ribbons. She rubbed a finger across the engraving. To R. Love M. Always.

Yes, this was his.

And the lapel pin, a tiny silver basket designed to hold a sprig of baby’s breath or a miniature rosebud—a wedding gift from her mother twenty years before.

She looked up at the sheriff, tears blurring her vision. “And his ring?”

The lawman shook his head. “No ring. Not on his body or in his shack.”

“But he always wore it. Never took it off.”

He shrugged. “Maybe he lost it. Or sold it.”

“I doubt he’d do either. My mother gave it to him when I was born.”

She peered at him. Had he stolen her father’s ring?

Or maybe Sheriff Freemont was correct. Maybe something as important as her birth hadn’t meant much to her father. Maybe she didn’t either. Was that why he left?


Get your copy here:

https://shoplpc.com/double-jeopardy/

https://www.amazon.com/Double-Jeopardy-Donna-Schlachter/dp/1645260836

Monday’s Manuscript with Donna Schlachter

The Opening Line

By Donna Schlachter

Readers are easily bored.

Hopefully that opening line caught your attention and did at least three things. The following can be applied to any

written material, whether fiction or non-fiction, short story, epic novel, or flash fiction.

Introduces the topic: the opening sentence establishes a contract with the reader, lets them know what’s coming, sets the tone, and weeds out those who aren’t really interested in what you have to say. Because this one thing is true–not everybody will be part of your target audience, and the quickest way to lose a reader forever is to promise something you don’t deliver.

Causes questions to arise: if you tell the reader everything they need to know in the opening line, they don’t need to read the next 200 words or 200 pages. Instead, your opening line should cause questions to arise in the reader’s mind. In this case: why are readers easily bored? How can I keep them from getting bored?

Makes the reader want to read more: When readers invest time and energy in your writing, they are less likely to give

up, which offers you the opportunity to demonstrate what an excellent writer you are and what a compelling story you can weave. This, in turn, will transform your readers into fans and influencers for your products.

In Summary: you want your opening line to give a hint of what the story is about; cause the reader to ask at least one question that cannot be answered unless they continue reading. If you’ve accomplished that, you have written a great opening line. You do this by starting with action, identify the main character or situation the character finds herself in, and foreshadow what’s to come.


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About Donna

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.