August 13, 2009

I Love Writing Historicals - Especially Westerns

I have a new western historical releasing September 1. Wild West Christmas.

Two of my favorite things. It's a western romance, and it's a Christmas story. The other authors are Kathleen Y'Barbo, Vickie McDonough, and Darlene Franklin. Really a top-notch team. But most important is that it's my first book set in. . .(drum roll please)

Texas. That's where I live.

This was a fun book to write. It's about four sisters whose mother died when the youngest was born. They were reared by their father on a ranch, so they're all four proficient in things most young women of their day didn't do.

The title of my book in the series is Charlsey's Accountant. Charlsey is the youngest daughter, so she doesn't remember her mother. She works as hard as any of the cowboys, but she can be a lady when that's needed.

The hero is an accountant from back East, who doesn't understand Texas ways. Do the sparks ever fly?

Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 1
Hill Country Texas, Spring 1890

Harold Miller, III, twisted on the train’s bench, trying to find a more comfortable position. Every time he moved, all the thin padding under the leather upholstery shifted away from him. After spending the night in the Pullman, he wished for his plush featherbed back home. If his father hadn’t insisted he come out West, he’d be rested, not aching and weary. Just the thought brought a strong twinge in his stiff neck. And he’d be working with the numbers he loved, instead of heading toward some godforsaken place in Texas. Why would anyone name a town Horsefly? He hoped it wasn’t an indication of what he’d find when he arrived.

The monotony of rail travel compelled him to purchase a dime novel before he boarded. In any other circumstance, he never would have considered reading one. He preferred the classics to this drivel. After pulling the paperback book from his pocket, he studied the cover. A pen and ink sketch of a cowboy in full regalia–hat, boots with spurs, long-sleeved shirt, bandanna around his neck, and chaps over his trousers–was crowned with the title Black Bart’s Nemesis. He opened it to the middle where he’d left off reading the exciting, but preposterous, tale.

James Johnson vaulted into the saddle from across his horse’s rump and took off flying over the vast prairie after Black Bart. This time the dastardly outlaw would not get away.

Leaning close to Champion’s neck he urged the strong stallion faster and faster, hoping Bart wouldn’t start shooting at him. He didn’t want to have to kill the man. He just wanted him brought to justice. Thudding hooves stirred up smothering clouds of dust, and the outlaw and his horse left a wake of waves in the tall, dry prairie grass, much like the waves on the ocean.

Harold doubted the writer of this book had ever seen an ocean, especially if he compared it to dry prairie grass. And dust couldn’t be compared to the salty tang in the cooling air currents blowing across open water. He remembered sitting on the dock at his family’s cottage on Cape Cod, tasting the familiar fragrance, with the waves lapping under his feet.
James pulled his bright red bandanna over his nose to keep from breathing too much dirt into his lungs. Hot wind fanned by the mad dash across unfamiliar terrain jerked his hat from his head. If he hadn’t had the cord knotted under his chin, he’d have lost his prized Stetson. Instead it bounced against his back, keeping time with the hoof beats.
He was fast approaching his prey when suddenly Champion pitched forward and fell to the right. James had to leap sideways from his saddle to keep the gigantic horse from crushing him. Momentary fear robbed him of breath. Quickly, he jumped to his feet, sucking deeply from the hot dry air which brought a slow burning sensation to his lungs. He pulled off his hat and surveyed the damage while he beat his headgear against his leather chaps, trying to get some of the accumulated tan dust off.
He walked wide around the troubled horse, trying to find what had tripped his usually surefooted mount. Of course, the prairie dog town had been hidden by tall grass, and Champion stepped into one of the holes. “Oh, d–.”

Harold refused to voice the curse word even in his thoughts.
“I hope you didn’t break your leg.”

The horse rolled back and forth, his hooves flailing, before finally making it up on all four hooves.

James stared ahead, watching the figure of Black Bart and his mount recede until he was just a bouncing dot on the horizon. “Foiled again! But tomorrow is another day.”
“Don’t believe everything ya read in them dime novels.”

Harold stared up into the face of the friendly conductor. “I’m sure that’s true. I only brought it to help pass the time.”
“Ya did say you’re gettin’ off in Horsefly, didn’t ya?”

Feeling uncomfortable holding a conversation with the man who towered over him, Harold rose to his feet. “Yes.”
“We’ll be pullin’ inta the station in about five minutes.”
“Thank you.” Harold tipped his hat before turning and shoving the book into his black, leather Gladstone traveling bag.

The conductor ambled farther down the car.
“Sir.” Harold called after him.

Without breaking stride, the man wheeled around and returned in a trice.

“Will I be able to hire a buggy in Horsefly, or will I need to ride a horse?” He hoped the conductor couldn’t tell how much he dreaded the last alternative.
[scene break]
“Hey, Charlie!” One of the cowhands shouted, catching Charlsey’s attention. “Bring on the next ’un.”
Charlsey Ames settled her sombrero more firmly on her head and opened the chute. A half-grown calf stumbled toward her. She bulldogged the Hereford and slid it closer to the huge fire, trying to keep the smoke out of her eyes. Today was unusually hot for spring. It felt more like summer. Too bad they needed such a strong fire for the branding irons.
When the reddened metal touched the calf, the acrid stench of burning hide filled her nostrils, a truly unpleasant odor, mixed with excrement and other things that accompanied it. Branding wasn’t one of her favorite chores, but she could rope the calf and tie its legs together faster than any of the other hands. That way the calves didn’t suffer as much trauma because their branding was over quickly.
While she was bulldogging the next calf, her father rode up and dismounted. Funny how she could be intent on what she was doing, but also aware of all her surroundings. Pa said that made her the best hand on the ranch, though her sisters might disagree. And the cowboys respected her.
She released the calf and stood, winding her lariat into a manageable circle, then swiping her sleeve across her sweaty brow.

“Charlie!” Once again the cowboy shouted for a calf.
Pa held up his hand. “Not right now. I need to talk to Charlie a minute. Why don’t the rest of you take a short break?”

The cowboys rushed toward the chuck wagon for coffee, and Charlsey approached her father.
“What’s going on?”
“I forgot to tell you I received a telegram yesterday from Harold Miller in Boston.” He took off his hat, wiped his forehead with his bandanna, then stuffed the soiled cloth into his back pocket. “He bought a packing plant in Chicago, and he’s sending his son to buy some of our beef.”
Charlsey broke up a dirt clod with the toe of her boot. “Have you met his son?”
“Nope, and I haven’t seen Harold in over thirty years. Not since we worked the King ranch together. He lives somewhere back East.” He put his dusty Stetson back on his head. “I was actually surprised he wants to buy cattle from us. I didn’t know he’d kept up with me all these years.”
Charlsey stared across the fence line toward the undisturbed pasture, brilliant with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups. She loved the colors of spring and the fresh fragrance of wildflowers. “When do you expect the younger Mr. Miller?”
“Today or tomorrow. If I knew for sure which day, I’d send a wagon for him, but I can’t have one of my hands sitting at the station most of two days.” Pa reached for his horse’s reins. “I’ve alerted your sisters. We might have company for a few days. You’ll want to dress for dinner. . .and all that stuff.”
His offhand wave told her what she needed to know about his expectations. She didn’t mind entertaining guests, but it would be a bother in the middle of branding.

Now you can see why it was so much fun to write. I'm giving away a free copy of the book. I'll choose a winner from all who leave a comment on this blog. You have until August 20th to leave the comment. Please also leave a way for me to contact you.
Lena Nelson Dooley


Mary said...


The books sounds great and yes, it would have been fun to write. Thanks for your generosity in giving away a copy.

Have a great day. Hope you and James are doing fine.


CrystalGB said...

Hi Lena. Great excerpt. Your book sounds good. I love the cover to Wild West Christmas.

Wanda said...

I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Edna said...

A nice interview of Lena, she is such a great writter and person. She need to be honored a little.
May God Bless


Stacy said...

Thanks for sharing part of your book. It looks like it's going to be a good one.

Stacy Burnett


Anyone who writes western fiction is a friend of mine. We'll have to do an interview for the Archive.


Anyone who writes western fiction is a friend of mine. We'll have to do an interview for the Archive.

Cherie J said...

Wow! Lena that sounds wonderful! I also love Christmas stories and the combination of a Western romance and a Christmas story sounds like a winner. Would love to be entered in the drawing. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.


Kimberly and Rufus said...

Sounds like a fun book, historical and Christmas rolled into one.

contact info: @kimberfus on Twitter, where I read about your contest. :-)

bigguysmama said...

You certainly hooked me with your excerpt!! I can tell the sparks are going to fly. Please enter to win.

Mimi B
mnjesusfreak at gmail dot com

Judy said...

Sounds like the kind of book a homesick Texas gal would love! I'm from very near the Hill Country myself and itching to move home! Congrats on the new release!

Virginia said...

Hi, Lena! I love the Old West, and I love Christmas all year round. This sounds like a wonderful book! Congratulations!

Norma O'Connell said...

Having been raised for a short time on a small cattle ranch in the 'hills' near Augusta, MT, having the pleasure of riding at will as a child and now living in Chicago with my 'city boy' husband I love getting lost in good wholesome western stories. Thank you for giving yourself to it!

Molly Noble Bull said...

You not only like to write historicals, you are good at it. Keep up the good work.