Friday’s Feature with Donna Schlachter

Giveaway and Excerpt

Question: Answer the following question to enter a random drawing for a print (US only) or ebook copy of Hollenberg Hearts: What’s your favorite genre and why?

Hollenberg Hearts

Hearts of the Pony Express

Book 1

Most people know something about the Pony Express, but few realize it only operated from April 1860 through to November 1861. The first ride left St. Joseph, Missouri heading west, and from Sacramento, California heading east, on April 3rd, 1860. 

The idea for a Pony Express was conceived in the minds of its owners because of the possibility of winning the contract for the overland US mail. Another company, Butterworth, was running a southern route that took up to three weeks to deliver to the west coast, and Majors and Waddell thought they could beat that time by taking the shorter northern route.

The time period, 1860, fascinates me as there were so many changes happening in America. The train is a dream; the cross-country telegraph is nearing completion; the country is brewing for civil war; women are campaigning for voting and civil rights. In just a few short years, cameras will photograph war for the first time; telephones will be installed in people’s homes; electricity will light our lives into the dark of night.

When the final rider left Sacramento in November 1861, carrying letters going east as far as St. Joseph, Missouri, the company was already about $600,000 in debt. Although the project was well-conceived and well-executed, it was never designed as a long-term system. And when the Overland Express lost its bid to garner the mail contract, the company ended up merging with its competitor Butterworth to deliver mail that kept the country united through the coming war and for many years to come.


About Hollenberg Hearts

Catherine Malloy escapes a poor past in response to a mail order bride ad her best friend answered. However, Margaret dies before meeting the man who owns horses and property in Kansas.

Benjamin Troudt works for the Hollenberg family at their way station in Kansas, and owns nothing but the clothes on his back. Unbeknownst to him, his pastor is corresponding with a potential wife from back East for him.

When Catherine, now calling herself Maggie, arrives, Benjamin knows nothing of the pastor’s match-making, and rejects her. However, a seriously ill pregnant woman needs tending. Perhaps Maggie can prove herself useful.

Not only does she do just that, but she finds herself attracted to the very man who is looking for ways to send her away.


About Donna

Donna writes historical and contemporary mysteries, and has been published more than 50 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. She lives in Denver with her husband and two cats, finding mysteries wherever she travels. You can find her books on Amazon under both her name and that of her former pen name, Leeann Betts.

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

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Thursday’s Throwback with Donna Schlachter

Interview, Excerpt and Giveaway!

Question for random drawing: Where would be your choice for a romantic honeymoon?

Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for a print (US only) or ebook copy of Cactus Lil and the City Slicker


Excerpt:

A rough-and-tumble cowgirl longs for true love but is afraid to let down her prickly exterior when a city slicker from New York City, with less-than-honorable intentions, tries to win her heart and her hand.

Double D Ranch

Near Cave Creek, Arizona Territory, 1885

Chapter 1

Sally Jo sank to the ground beneath the pain of her wrenched ankle. “Drat. I simply cannot walk one more step in these infernal boots.”

Thomas Peabody, broad of shoulders and narrow of waist, knelt beside her, cupping her aching foot in hands more accustomed to roping steers or shooting the eye out of a gnat at a hundred yards. “Miss Sally, allow me to assist you.”

Sally Jo stared into his eyes. Why hadn’t she ever noticed they matched perfectly the color of the summer sky? “Why, Mr. Peabody, you’re most gallant.”

He straightened, reached a hand toward her, and pulled her to her feet. When she tried to put weight on her aching foot, a jab of pain like a hot poker shot through her, and she collapsed into his arms.

Right where she wanted to be.

He pulled her near, and she closed her eyes, offering her mouth to him. Greedily, as though drawing his very life essence from her, he covered her lips with his own. When she thought she would suffocate, she opened her eyes, and saw mirrored what her racing heart telegraphed to her own mind: this was love.

Lily Duncan surveyed the words written on the page as she chewed the end of her fountain pen. Ink blotches on her fingers attested to her hard work this morning. A clicking sound like a metronome tickled at the periphery of her hearing while she considered whether she needed to change the word telegraphed to something more ooshy-gooshy romantic.

Tsick-tsick-tssiicckk.

She tipped her head to listen. What was that sound?

Lily tossed her pen on the desk and glanced at the silver clock resting on the leather-topped surface. Time was running out. She had less than two hours to finish this story and get it on the last mail stage of the day. That snooty editor, Mr. Hogan, in New York, was waiting for it.

Not that she knew for certain he was snooty. Truth was, she didn’t know anything about him. 

She’d only met him through correspondence, so he could be any age, any degree of pretentiousness, any color for that matter.

But that didn’t stop her creating an image in her mind: middle-aged, a monocle, oiled hair parted down the middle and slicked back, muttonchop sideburns, and a beard, of course. A house on Fifth Avenue, a society wife, private carriage, servants, and twelve children. At least.

She sighed. Thinking about all the reasons why she didn’t like the man responsible for buying her stories to publish in his fancy eastern magazine wasn’t going to get the story written. Or mailed.

Tsick-tsick-tssiicckk.

She pushed back from the desk. What she’d written would have to do. She couldn’t work with such a racket. She stepped to the window and listened. Not coming from the front. Must be out back. She crossed the bedroom-turned-office to the window facing the rear of the house.

This view was much more utilitarian than the rolling desert and giant saguaros surrounding the house on the other three sides. A small barn for her three horses, a hen house, corral, and privy filled her line of vision.

Tsick-tsick-tssiicckk.

Yes, this is where the sound came from.

And she knew its exact origin.

Lily hefted the Colt .38 on her hip. She’d take care of that she-rattler right now. She strode to the back door and stepped into the late afternoon heat of the desert.

The musky smell of mesquite, heated by the sun, filled her nose as she paused on the doorstep. How she loved the desert. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. 

Certainly not a place like New York City. No way. Give her cactus and rocks, cattle and dipping tanks, horses and leather any day. Unlike her heroines, she wouldn’t darken the doorway of a town bigger than Cave Creek. And she sure wouldn’t fall for the first man who looked at her twice.

Not that many men looked at her even once. She wasn’t ugly. At least, not ugly like a javelina, with its short bristly hide and snarling tusks. And not ugly like a turkey vulture, with its naked head and red eyes.

She preferred men’s dungarees to skirts. She wasn’t much practiced at cooking and cleaning. But she could outshoot, outride, and outsmart most men she knew.

Which was probably why most men didn’t take a second look at her.

Lily neared the woodpile. She’d been meaning to clean that mess up, sweep out the old tinder from the previous year. Even prop the wood up on a couple of timbers to discourage snakes and other varmints wanting to find a warm place to spend the night. But her best range cow had a difficult birth, and her horses needed shoeing, and the hole in the roof . . . 

Too much work for one person. Not enough hours in the day to get everything done. What had she been thinking when she started writing?

An escape, that’s what. Something to while away the long evenings. 

Tsick-tsick-tssiicckk.

She pulled on a pair of leather gloves and tipped her head to one side. If she didn’t get that low-down, no-good rattler out soon, there’d be a passel of little ones slithering around.

She glanced toward the horizon. The sun dropped like a lead sinker as though intent on ensuring she missed her deadline to get that story mailed today. 

And she sure didn’t need Mr. Persnickety Hogan upset that her latest installment of Love in the Wild Wild West wasn’t on time.


Get to know Donna

Cactus Lil came about as the result of a long-standing friendship, a step-mother who I dearly loved, and a desert oasis I longed to write about. Mary Davis, a good friend, contacted me because I’d worked with her on a previous romance collection, wanting to know if I was interested in another, and I said yes. My step-mom and my dad loved Cave Creek, Arizona, and got married in a little chapel in town there, and I wanted to set a book there because I love the town, too. Being a writer with a pen name, I thought it might be neat to have my main character write under a pseudonym, too.

As with most of my books, my main character, Lily Duncan, is slightly autobiographical. She is strong and independent—or so she thinks—but she also recognizes something is missing in her life. I think readers will connect with the deep longing in her heart.

As for my hero, Peter Golding is named after a chemistry professor I had in college. To be honest, I was a little afraid of him—he seemed so unapproachable. But as the semester went on, I found out he had an incredible sense of humor along with a good dose of an inflated opinion of his own self-worth. My Peter comes west to “rescue” Miss Daisy Duncan from this western backwater of Arizona Territory and whisk her off to the City. Boy, does he have a thing or two to learn!

Writing a romance is challenging for me for two reasons: as a suspense writer, I tend to have three or four subplots going on at the same time, but novellas just don’t have the word count to support that. At the same time, I want to intrigue my readers to keep them guessing, so at least a small subplot is imperative.

The other thing is I must be certain that the hero doesn’t simply come in and save the heroine. Writing a strong female character helps with that, but I don’t want my male character to look weak, either. He has to have certain abilities that will help him save the day at least once. 

Getting to the romance can also be a challenge. There must be a reason why these two get together. It’s why we read romance, right? One reviewer said she couldn’t understand why my characters ended up falling in love. We must keep in mind that people in the 1880’s wed for different reasons. Their courtship—if there even was one—looked different than today. For Lily and Peter, they wrote about love and published love stories, but had never been in love. Yet they were drawn to this other person who was completely unlike them and whose life goals were completely different. I think this is a picture of what God does in our own lives. If we were whole, we wouldn’t need Him, and we wouldn’t need a spouse. Yet the combination of our differences makes us whole as a couple, and when we use our passions, experiences, and talents for Him, we are complete in Him.


About Donna

Donna writes historical and contemporary mysteries, and has been published more than 50 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. She lives in Denver with her husband and two cats, finding mysteries wherever she travels. You can find her books on Amazon under both her name and that of her former pen name, Leeann Betts.

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

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Thursday’s Throwback with Leeann Betts

Giveaway and Excerpt

A Game is Afoot

Beginning a new series is never easy—particularly when it means the previous one has ended. Saying goodbye to characters we’ve known and loved and argued with is difficult. 

So instead of simply stopping one and starting the other, I came up with the great idea of writing a segue between the two. Actually, it wasn’t my idea—an author I know was asked by their published to write a bridge novella—I simply changed the name.

My first series took place from 2002 through 2006, moving slowly through the months. My main character, Carly Turnquist, was a 50-something forensic accountant, married to a computer programmer. She has two step-children, and two grandchildren, one of whom, in 2006, is six years old.

Fast forward to the present. Her granddaughter, Margie Hanson, a recent graduate of library sciences, inherits a mystery bookstore in Edgewater, Colorado, from her great-aunt who died under mysterious circumstances. Carly and Margie come to Colorado to figure out what happened.

Each book in the four-book series will feature a rare and/or expensive manuscript, contains a phrase from a vintage detective story, and is guaranteed to make you put on your thinking cap.


Excerpt from The Game is Afoot

Chapter 1

Margie grabbed her ringing cell phone and checked the caller ID. Her Great Aunt Rosella. “Hello?”

“Their voices assault my hearing.”

“What are you talking about, Auntie?”

A long sigh. “I already told you.” The older woman’s voice lowered a notch in both volume and timbre. “Their voices assault my—”

“I heard that. Who are you talking about?”

“The voices.”

Margie, newly graduated from Rutgers University with her Masters in Information and Library Sciences, sank back in the lumpy sofa of her off-campus studio apartment. She eyed the cloisonné clock perched beside her recently framed diploma—the clock a graduation gift from her aunt, the diploma the result of six years of diligent study. “Are you hearing voices?”

Three abrupt thumps, and Margie pulled the phone from her ear. What the—? Oh, right. Aunt Rosella often emphasized her displeasure by whacking the nearest tool at hand against the closest hard surface. In this case, her phone likely contacted a table. Or the wall.

“Don’t speak to me like I’m a batty old woman. I’m not hearing voices. At least, not in the way your tone implies.”

“Sorry. Tell me what’s going on.”

“What is going on, as you so eloquently put it, is criminal. And that’s all I’m going to say about the matter until I speak with you face to face.”

Margie unfolded her legs and sat forward. “Are you coming to Maine?” She hadn’t seen the older woman in years, although they chatted several times a year by telephone, and her aunt always remembered her on her birthday and at Christmas. And on the occasion of her graduation, of course. “That’s great. When?”

“I am not coming to you. You will visit me here in Denver. Immediately, if not sooner.”

“But—”

“No buts about it. I have a matter I need you to look into. You have an enquiring mind, child. I’ve always appreciated that about you.”

Margie smiled. “Must have gotten it from you.”

“Pshaw. Just because I own a bookstore dedicated to mysteries doesn’t mean I can solve them. It simply provides me a business reason to read as much as I like.” She chuckled. “But don’t tell the tax man.”

“My lips are sealed.” Margie glanced at the three letters on the coffee table. Job offers. Very good ones, at that. Her dream come true. One at a public library in a small town in Indiana where she’d be librarian, curator, and teacher. The second from a local law firm, where she’d be in charge of the law library and its tomes of precedents and cases. And the third at her alma mater, where she’d be assistant to the chief librarian. The problem was deciding which to accept. “But I can’t leave right now. In fact, I have to choose between—”

“Between helping me or abandoning me to the wolves.”

“Surely it can’t be as bad as that.” Spending her days surrounded by mysteries must be affecting her aunt’s mental processes. “Perhaps I could come out over Thanksgiving?”

“It will be too late by then.” Her aunt sniffed. “Never mind. I suppose there’s nothing you can do anyway. You have a good mind for mysteries, as I said. Not as good as your Grandma Carly’s, though. She’s got a mind like Dame Agatha’s. I’ll call and see if she’s willing to help this old woman.”

Margie shook her head, seeing through her aunt’s play for sympathy. She leafed through the letters. All three graciously gave her a month to decide, leaving her three more weeks before crunch time. Perhaps a quick dash to Denver for a week or so was in order. Getting away from Augusta might free her mind. Give her time and space to analyze her options. Make the best career choice.

And the mention of her grandmother gave her another idea. “How about if I call Grandma Carly and the two of us visit?”

“Oh, that would be grand. You can stay with me in the apartment over the bookstore. The spare room has two single beds ready and waiting for you.”

Interesting how the woman’s concerns immediately translated into vacation mode. Possibly things weren’t so serious—no, she’d said she’d come. “Grandma can make up for my shortcomings, and you can show us around your beloved Denver.”

“Oh, not my Denver, dear. My Edgewater. I never venture into the Mile High City.” Another sniff. “They sell drugs on every corner and call themselves medical dispensaries.” A sigh. “Such wickedness.”

Margie smiled. No doubt her aunt’s little burg also offered marijuana and other previously illicit pleasures, but she’d not spoil the woman’s Pollyanna view of her Edgewater, a tiny city nestled between Denver, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge. Situated beside a large lake. The park-like atmosphere with its quaint old-style downtown was exactly the Eden-like surrounding her aunt loved.

Margie scrolled to her calendar app. “I’ll call you back to confirm when we’ll arrive, and we’ll plan to stay a week.”

“With your grandmother’s help, that should be plenty of time.”

“Will somebody meet us at the airport?”

“Yes. My nephew, Arthur. You remember him, don’t you?”

Margie’s memory cast back to the far-in-the-past family reunions, recalling a weaselly boy with thick eyeglasses and a sarcastic tongue. Hopefully the years had changed him for the better. “Okay. Let me make arrangements, then I’ll call you with details.”

“Good. And bring the clock I sent you. It’s very important. Do you understand?”

“Okay.” She glanced up at the item again. After unpacking it yesterday, she hadn’t even bothered to wind it up. Just as well, since it would only run out in her suitcase, being a twenty-four-hour mini-version. Decorative, but not very practical. “Anything else?”

“A jar of Maine blueberry jam.”

“Got it.”

A long silence filled her ear, and she wondered whether her aunt had disconnected. Then a rustling sound. Almost as though Aunt Rosella covered the receiver with a hand. To keep her from hearing a conversation in Edgewater? Or to make certain somebody there didn’t hear what she said next?

Neither made sense.

And her aunt’s words only added to her confusion.

“The game is afoot.”


Giveaway: Answer the following question, and we’ll randomly draw from all answers for a print (US only) or ebook copy of The Game is Afoot.

Question: If you could choose your dream job, would it be (a) a librarian in a public library, (b) a small independent bookstore owner, or (c) a publisher. And why?


About Leeann

Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. Together she and Donna have published 50 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, CAN, and SinC.

Website: www.LeeannBetts.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://bit.ly/1pQSOqV

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1qmqvB6

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