Spruced-up Home Page Giveaway

Cropped celtic shamrockHey y’all, I’ve been busy remodeling my Front Page here on WordPress. Now I’m inviting you to look it over and give me your feedback. As an incentive, I’ll be giving away one digital copy of each of my three books to one lucky visitor.

It’s easy to enter the giveaway drawing. If you’re not already here, come visit my site [[ http://texasdruids.com ]] and leave a comment telling me what you like or don’t like about my redesigned Front Page. Please include your name (or alias) and your email address. The entry period runs through Monday, Dec. 5th.

Good Luck!


Dashing Druid: Excerpt, Chap. 3, Part 3

Friends, I’m happy to say Dashing Druid is finished! There are a few tech files to set Dashing Druid book cover half-sizeup; then it will be ready to upload to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I hope this second book in my Texas Druids series will be for sale within another week or two. With that goal in mind, I hope you enjoy this last free excerpt.

Today’s excerpt is a change of scene from the last one. Tye’s brother-in-law, David, has a contract to supply horses and mules to the Army. Given the task of breaking mules as pack animals, Tye has other ideas.

Tye longed to try his hand at breaking one of the unruly broncs. He imagined himself riding a bucking horse to a standstill as he’d watched some of the cowboys do. But Sul, still acting as his keeper, refused to hear of it, and Tye knew better than to plead his case with David. That would undermine what little respect he’d earned from the other hands.

Satisfied that he’d worked the fight out of this particular mule, Tye decided to put his request to Sul one more time. By now the veteran cowboy had drifted over to the main corral where the horses were being broken under the direction of Luis Medina. Sturdily built but not very tall, the vaquero was as agile as a cat, and his skill with horses was close to miraculous. Bronco buster

Luis was married to Maria, the ranch cook, and the couple had four children. Their oldest boy, Vittorio, acted as shepherd for his brothers and sister, and often for little Nora as well. Right now he was giving her a piggyback ride around the ranch yard. Tye grinned at her delighted squeals as he strode over to Sul and Luis.

The Mexican’s mustached, nut-brown face cracked into a smile at something Sul had just said. Then both men glanced at Tye as he walked up to join them.

“How’s that mule comin’ along, boy? You ready to tackle another one?” Sul asked.

Tye crossed his arms. “No, but I am ready to have a go at one of the horses.”

Scowling at him, Sul spat a stream of tobacco juice into the dust. “Shoot, you gonna pester me about that agin? How many times do I gotta say no? Just cuz Luis taught yuh to set a horse proper don’t mean you’re ready to climb aboard one of them hurricane decks.”

“And how will I ever be ready if ye never let me try? Isn’t the best way to learn simply to do it?”

“No. Uh-uh, no sir.”

Amigo, why not let him try one time?” Luis said in his soft-spoken, melodious accent. He met Tye’s surprised gaze from the shade of his sombrero, his black mustache crooking upward.

Sul glowered at him. “And maybe have him break his fool neck? Now how would I face Miz Jessie if I let that happen?”

“The blame will be mine, not yours,” Luis replied calmly.

Indecision showed on Sul’s face, giving Tye a surge of hope. Finally, the old-timer rubbed his bristly chin and grumbled, “All right, have it your way, Luis. But if he gets hisself hurt, you’re darn tootin’ gonna do the explainin’.”

Moments later, Tye settled himself on a snorting, quivering bay mare while Luis and a hand named Pete Simms held her in check.

“Remember, try to keep her head up,” Luis instructed.

Tye nodded and took a firm grip on the reins with one hand. He would use his free arm for balance as he’d seen the other men do. His mouth was cotton-dry, and it felt like he had a hundred butterflies in his belly, but he was determined to make a good showing, especially in front of Luis.

Even so, he questioned his sanity when the infuriated mustang jumped straight up in the air under him and landed with a spine-wrenching jolt. On her second leap, he forgot all about keeping the mare’s head up. Instinctively, he grabbed the saddle horn, fighting to keep his seat. Now the ornery beast tucked her head and bounded forward in a twisting motion that turned her in a half circle.

The maneuver worked. Tye lost his grip and went flying. He slammed into the ground on his back, knocking the wind half out of him. Purely by reflex, he rolled out of the way to avoid being stomped. He ended up on his stomach near the corral fence with dirt in his mouth and laughter in his ears. Turning his head, he saw two cowhands grin down at him from the other side of the fence.

“Yuh look real natural down there, greenhorn,” one drawled while the other heehawed loudly.

By the saints, he’d show them!

Dashing Druid: Excerpt, Chap. 3, Part 2

Howdy, Partners. Before you dig into this next free excerpt, I’d like to share part of an email from Jody D., a fan who’s reading Darlin’ Druid, quoted with her permission.

“I spent many years in theatre and I do not give praise unless it is truly deserved. I can watch a person audition on stage and tell within seconds whether or not they can act or direct. I can also tell within three paragraphs whether or not a person can write. You can write. So far I have loved every word of Darlin’ Druid and I put your style and quality right on par with such queens as Linda Leal Miller and Jody Thomas. I’m looking forward to reading all of your westerns. When I’m finished I will leave a review on amazon for you.”

Dashing Druid close-up, sm.Tye laid aside his saw and stepped over to the water bucket for a drink. He took a long pull from the dipper, hung it back on the bucket and sauntered toward Lil. She was arranging covered dishes on a cloth-covered table. With her back to him, she didn’t see him approach.

“Good morning, Miss Crawford,” he said, halting a couple of paces behind her.

She whirled around, lips parted, brown eyes wide. Her chaotic mix of emotions – surprise, wariness and perhaps a hint of excitement — blasted him, bringing on a dull pain behind his eyes and causing his smile to slip for a moment. Seeing her nostrils flare delicately as if testing his scent, she made him think of a frightened doe poised to leap away.

“H-how do you know my name? I never . . . .” She paused, then answered her own question. “David and Jessie told you.”

“Aye, colleen, and I’ve been wondering, is it Lil for Lilly?”

“Th-that’s none of your business.”

Tye cocked an eyebrow but didn’t press her for an answer. “Ye look very lovely this fine day, if ye don’t mind me saying so.”

She stiffened and scowled at him, her color heightening to that angry, beautiful shade of rose he remembered so well. “Save your smooth words, mister. I know how I look, and I’m not lovely.”

“What?” He stared at her in disbelief, detecting the deep well of hurt from which her anger sprang. “Of course you’re –”

“Hello, Lil,” Jessie interrupted, startling him as she walked up to him. “I understand you’ve met my brother once before.”

Lil shot her a sharp glance; then her dark eyes drilled into him. “Yeah, we met a while back. Guess you heard all about it.”

“Aye, I mentioned getting directions from ye,” Tye said before Jessie could reply. He registered Lil’s anger at him for talking to his sister about her and felt her resentment toward Jessie. Mystified as to its cause, he went on, “But I neglected to properly introduce myself that day. The name’s Tye Devlin, and delighted I am to be seeing you again, Miss Crawford.” He winked, hoping to lighten her mood.

Her gaze darted uncertainly from him to Jessie and back again. She licked her lips and seemed to search for words. Before she managed to reply, a short, stout older woman marched up and clutched her arm. Her skin was darker than Lil’s, her features broader, but the two were plainly related.

“Come and help me,” she snapped, ignoring Tye and Jessie completely and paying no heed to Lil’s dismayed expression.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Crawford,” Jessie said with forced sweetness, “but I’d like ye to meet my brother, Tye Devlin. Tye, this is Rebecca Crawford, Lil’s mother.”

The woman’s black gaze whipped toward him. Hatred poured off of her, causing Tye’s mental barriers to slam shut against her.

“’Tis a great pleasure, ma’am,” he forced out, inclining his head.

Her features turned stone-hard; she said not one word in reply, only boring into him with her hate-filled glare. “Come,” she ordered, yanking on her daughter’s arm.

Embarrassed color stained Lil’s cheeks, her eyes were downcast, but she offered no protest as her mother practically dragged her away. Baffled, Tye stared after them.

“Did I do something to offend the mother?” he asked.

“Aye! You’re my brother. That’s enough to make her wish ye dead, I’m sure,” Jessie said acidly.

“What’s this? Why d’ye say that?”

She tossed him a sour glance. “Oh, ye haven’t heard the tale yet? Well, ye may as well know. Everyone else does.”

Tye had wanted to know why Lil carried such sadness in her heart but the answer came as a shock. He listened with growing dismay as Jessie spoke of Lil’s youthful attachment to David, and how she and her parents had believed he would eventually marry her.

“David admits he kissed her a few times, but ’twas only boyish shenanigans. He was put up to it by her brother. Unfortunately, she took it to heart. I suppose she was smitten with him to begin with.” Jessie smoothed a hand over her rounded belly and sighed. “Anyhow, David swears he never made her any promises, and I believe him. But the Crawfords can’t forgive him for leaving home to fight for the Union and deserting Lil, as they see it.

“As for Lil herself, I’m certain she hoped David would come back for her someday. ’Twas a bitter pill for her to swallow when he returned with me as his wife, I can tell ye.” She shrugged. “At least she and her father are civil these days, but I fear Rebecca will never stop hating us. Lil’s brother was killed in the war and . . . well, ye see how things stand.”

Tye saw, and he experienced a flare of anger at David for hurting Lil, no matter how unintentional it may have been. He also recognized another emotion – jealousy. But that was absurd. He barely knew Lil Crawford. To be sure, she had often occupied his thoughts since their first meeting, but he had no reason to feel jealous over her. Yet he did.

“Stay away from Lil, Tye,” Jessie admonished. “Her father, Del, has a devilish temper, and I couldn’t bear to see ye get hurt.”

He met her worried gaze. “Och, don’t fret, sis. I only spoke to the colleen, and in case ye didn’t notice, she’s none too fond of me. Her folks have nothing to worry about.” Turning away, he ordered himself to stop thinking about Lil. She could never be his. He didn’t deserve any happiness after letting his best friend die. Nevertheless, his gaze immediately sought the dark-haired beauty whenever he looked up from his work.

* * *

As the day progressed, Lil avoided Tye in order to keep peace with her mother and because she wanted nothing to do with him, she sternly told herself. But once, when his gaze snagged hers, her heart thundered like a herd of longhorns, and she couldn’t keep herself from furtively watching him. She noticed his fluid movements as he worked and his engaging grin when the men shared a joke. She took in the midnight locks clinging to his damp forehead, the corded throat above his partly open shirt, and the muscled forearms revealed by his rolled up sleeves. The combination made her feel oddly weak. When his deep voice reached her ears, it hummed through her like wind blowing across the prairie.

Later, after the noon meal, he removed his soggy shirt in the afternoon heat, and Lil was mesmerized by the play of muscles across his broad shoulders and tapering back. She wondered how it would feel to run her hands over that hard, sweat-slick expanse. When he turned around, she found it hard to breathe. The curly black hair plastered to his sweat-slick chest fascinated her. Narrowing across a lean, contoured belly, the dark trail disappeared beneath his belt buckle. How far down did it go? Shocked by her brazen thought, she hastily turned away – and met Thea Knudson’s knowing gaze.

“He’s an eyeful, isn’t he,” her friend said slyly.

“I . . . I don’t know who you mean.”

“Don’t you? I guess I must have imagined all the times I caught you staring at the man, hmm?” Thea giggled and leaned close to whisper in Lil’s ear. “Don’t worry, I won’t let on to anyone, ʼspecially your ma.” With a teasing little grin, she hurried off to corral her children.

Afire with embarrassment, Lil vowed not to look at Tye Devlin again. He was a sweet-talking Irish scoundrel. Ma had ordered her to stay clear of him, and she was right.

I am pushing hard to put Dashing Druid on Amazon by Thanksgiving. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Please!