Aspiring authors, if you want to know what editors look for in a manuscript, you need to read this terrific post by Sue Grimshaw, Editor At Large and Category Specialist for Ballantine, Bantam, Dell.
Howdy from Fort Worth, where it’s sweater weather just in time for Halloween. Today we’re joining Lil Crawford at an old-fashioned barn raising. She’s not happy to be there, but she’ll get to see Tye Devlin later. Quite a bit of him as the day heats up!
The intense August sun was beginning its climb across the sky when Lil and her family arrived at the Rocking B Ranch. They’d come to help Morgan Bayliss put up a new barn to replace the one destroyed by a recent cyclone. Since his spread lay a fair distance from theirs, they’d left home long before dawn in order to make it here for the start of the barn raising.
Lil stifled a yawn as her father reined the buckboard team to a halt. Shaking off her drowsiness, she snatched up her skirts and jumped awkwardly from the wagon box where she’d ridden with her uncle. She’d donned a dress today at her mother’s insistence and, as always, she felt ridiculous in a skirt and petticoats.
“Quite a few folks here already,” Uncle Jeb said, joining her with the basket of food they’d brought to share. Up front, Pa was just helping her mother climb down.
Glancing around, Lil saw several families gathered near the Bayliss homestead. “I expect more will be riding in soon.”
“Yup, cuz it might be them needing help next time. The storm that tore down Morg’s barn could’ve just as easy hit somebody else’s place.”
Lil nodded, knowing he was right. Morg dealt mainly in horses and he’d lost not only his barn but also one of his best mares and her foal to the deadly wind. Word of the disaster had gotten around fast, and everyone had pitched in to organize this barn raising. Neighbors helped neighbors if they wanted to survive for long on the frontier. Then too, gatherings like this were chances to socialize, something the womenfolk appreciated.
Not that Lil counted herself among them. Most of the women looked down their noses at her and her mother because of their Indian blood. Lil didn’t give a hoot. She didn’t like them anymore than they liked her, with one exception: Thea Knudson, who came rushing toward her now.
“Lil! I’m so glad to see you!” the blonde woman gushed, throwing her arms around Lil and hugging her tight. “I was afraid you wouldn’t make it, and we haven’t seen each other in a coon’s age.”
Lil had known Thea – short for Althea – since they were both in pigtails, when Thea’s folks, the Hewitts, had owned a small spread near the Double C. Even after the family gave up ranching and moved into Clifton, Thea had remained Lil’s friend, her only female friend.
“I’m glad to see you, too,” Lil replied, smiling as they drew apart. “Looks like married life is still agreeing with you.” Thea was married to a big Norwegian named Arni Knudson who owned a farm over near Cranfill’s Gap. The pair had three children at last count.
“I couldn’t be happier, Lil.” Thea’s round, freckled face took on a sympathetic expression. “I only wish you’d find the same happiness.”
Lil stiffened. “I am happy,” she said more sharply than she intended. At that moment, her mother walked over, stopping her from saying something she’d regret. Thea meant well and Lil didn’t want to lose her friendship, but she couldn’t stomach her unwanted sympathy.
“Hello, Althea. You are well?” Ma asked with a hint of a smile.
“Yes ma’am. I was just telling Lil how glad I am to see you folks.”
“Seeing you is also good.” Turning to Lil, Ma said, “There is work to do. Come.” With that, she stepped away, expecting to be obeyed.
Lil and Thea shared understanding grins and joined the other women, who were setting up long plank tables to accommodate the throng of people when noontime rolled around.
To be continued next week
Sighing, he crooked his lips. “As ye wish.” He tipped his hat to her, clumsily reined his horse around and started to leave, but then he pulled up and glanced at her over his shoulder. He held up his hands when she cocked her gun. “I’m going, colleen, never fear. But first, could ye be directing me to the Taylor place, by any chance?”
Lil stared at him for a moment while questions raced through her head. Normally, she didn’t poke her nose into other folks’ business, but in this case . . . . “What do you want at the River T?” she demanded.
He frowned testily. “I mean no harm, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m merely trying to find my sister. She’s wed to David Taylor. D’ye know him?”
Lil drew a sharp breath. “You’re Jessie’s brother?”
“Aye, that I am. So ye do know them.”
“I know them all right,” she gritted. She should’ve guessed who he was from his damned Irish accent and those blue eyes that were so much like his sister’s. The two looked a lot alike in other ways, too, except for his black hair. Jessie’s hair was dark red. And he was handsome, not beautiful.
Fiddlesticks! She didn’t care what he looked like. And she didn’t cotton to the way he was staring at her now, as if he was trying to see inside her head. It gave her an uneasy feeling. She wanted him gone. If giving him directions would get rid of him, so much the better.
“Follow the creek. It’ll take you to their place,” she snapped, jerking her head in the downstream direction. “Now leave before my trigger finger slips. On purpose.”
He blinked and seemed to come back to himself. “I thank ye for your kind assistance, milady,” he said mockingly. Facing forward, he kicked his sorry mount into a stiff-legged trot and headed down the creek, bouncing in his saddle.
Watching him, Lil snickered. He was a greenhorn if there ever was one, and he was going to be mighty sore tonight. She waited until he was well out of sight before laying her gun aside and returning her attention to the mired calf.
This is a beautiful video. Enjoy!
Sorry I’m a day late posting this. I worked at a charity garage sale yesterday from early morning until afternoon, was so tired when I got home that I vegged out in front of the TV, forgetting my promise to post another excerpt. So here it is, better late than never!
His foolish question broke Lil’s frozen stare and roused her anger. She knew she was far from lovely, and right now she was covered with nasty muck besides. “Mister, I’m no fairy and I don’t take kindly to strangers who ride up on me with no warning. So you can just turn that bag of bones around and git. Right now!”
“Ah, colleen, will ye not grant this poor beggar a few moments of your company? ’Twould be my pleasure to help ye with the wee animal if ye like.”
She snorted at his offer. “No thanks. I can get him out by myself. ’Sides, you wouldn’t want to muddy up your fancy suit, would you?” she drawled with a smirk.
He looked down at himself and grimaced. “I take it ye don’t care for my fine attire.” Fine came out sounding like foin. “Well, you’re not the first. A layer of mud might not be such a bad thing, eh? With that in mind, will ye not reconsider and allow me to lend ye a hand?” He gave another roguish grin and splayed a hand over his heart. “In truth, your beauty so captivates me that I fear I cannot turn away.”
Lil bristled at his absurd comment. Certain he was making fun of her now, for her beauty would never captivate any man, she narrowed her eyes. She’d teach him, by criminy!
Without a word, she plowed through the mud over to where her belongings lay piled. She hastily wiped the worst of the mud from her hands onto the grassy embankment, then reached under her hat and drew her Colt. Coldly calm now, she turned to face the impudent stranger. It pleased her to see how fast he sobered with a gun aimed between his eyes.
“This is Double C land, mister. You’re trespassing. I could shoot you dead and nobody’d blame me. So unless you want a hole in your head bigger than your mouth, you’d best get moving.”
Dear readers, as some of you know, I plan to release the second volume in my Texas Druids trilogy in late November. Titled Dashing Druid, this book follows the exploits of Tye Devlin, oldest of the three gifted siblings for whom the series is named. Tye is a “sensitive” – what we would call an empath nowadays. He has the ability to experience other people’s emotions, a gift that leads him from tragedy to triumph.
From now until it’s launch date, I will be posting small excerpts from Tye’s story each Friday. This first excerpt is from the opening of Chapter One.
Note: If you have not yet read book one, Darlin’ Druid, it’s still available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com at the low, low price of only $.99!
Bosque County, Texas; July, 1874
“Consarned critter! Why’d you have to go and get stuck in there?” Lil Crawford muttered. She tugged harder on her rope in an effort to pull the bawling calf from the mud wallow it had wandered into. No luck. The animal was mired nearly up to his shoulders in thick clay gumbo. No matter how hard she pulled, she wasn’t going to get him out.
Nearby, standing beside the creek that had carved out the treacherous wallow along the bank, the calf’s mamma lowed plaintively as if blaming Lil for her baby’s predicament. Sending her a baleful glare, Lil said, “It’s not my fault. You should’ve dropped him in the spring like you’re supposed to ’stead of in the middle of summer. Then maybe he’d be big enough to climb out of this dang mud.”
Arms crossed, she studied the situation. She considered letting Major, her buckskin gelding, drag the calf out but feared injuring the little mite, possibly even breaking his neck. She sighed in disgust. There was no help for it; she’d have to get down in the mud and wrestle the calf out. It was either that or leave him there to die a slow, miserable death.
Dropping to the ground, she tugged off her boots and socks. She set them near the edge of the wallow, then rose, unbuckled her gun belt and laid it atop her footgear, where she could reach her six-shooter if need be. Her hat joined the pile for good measure.
Lil took a deep breath, set her teeth and stepped into the wallow, cringing as she sank up to her knees in the gooey muck. It squished between her toes and clung to her legs, plastering her britches to her skin. It also stank of rotting grass and other things she’d as soon not name.
Crooning softly to the frightened calf, she wrapped her arms around his middle, coating her hands, arms and shirt with mud in the process. She braced herself, preparing to wrestle the animal free.
A man’s deep-throated laugh caught her off guard. Jolted by the sound, she cried out in surprise and struggled to turn around, fighting the mud that imprisoned her legs. Once she succeeded, she stared, slack-jawed, at the stranger grinning at her from atop the most broken down nag she’d ever laid eyes on. The dude himself was a sight to behold. Togged out in a funny checked suit, with a derby hat atop jet-black hair, he made her lips twitch. However, her humor fled when she met his eyes. Brilliant blue, they shot sparks of light, brighter than the toothy grin splitting his handsome face.
“Sure’n I must be dreaming,” he said in a lilting Irish brogue. “Or are ye truly a lovely faery maid sent to enchant me?”
To be continued next week.