Friday, November 30, 2012

Counterfeit Cowboy

by C.J. Chase

What happens when an unreformed con man falls for his next mark?

Lacy Williams’ debut Marrying Miss Marshal was a shelfmate to my first book, so I was happy to read her latest, coming out in December. While Counterfeit Cowboy is a follow-on to Marrying Miss Marshal, the book stands alone. In fact, I didn’t realize the two were connected until very late in Counterfeit Cowboy.

From the back cover:

From the moment Jesse Baker collides with Erin O'Grady on a Boston train platform, he faces a dilemma. For once, Jesse doesn't want to lie about who and what he is. Yet if she learns he's a con artist, not a cowboy—and the urchin with him is certainly not his brother—she'll never give him a chance.

Erin suspects there's more to the enigmatic cowboy than meets the eye. But the sheltered socialite is certain his deep compassion is real. On the long Christmastime train ride to Wyoming, hearts and courage are tested and true motives revealed. And the journey that began in a charade may end with redemption—and a very real love.

Counterfeit Cowboy is really Jesse’s story in that he has the furthest to travel, and I don’t mean just on the railroads. Jesse has made many mistakes—mistakes that have sucked him further and further into the abyss.

Set in 1890, the story begins with fresh-out-of-prison Jesse Baker needing to travel immediately from Boston to Chicago, but he has no money, no friends, no family to speak of. While he’d like to leave his old ways behind, he needs money for train fare. Now. Unfortunately, as a man who spent his life on the streets and in prison, he lacks the knowledge and skills to acquire funds honestly. Earning the money legally—assuming he could even find someone willing to overlook his past and hire him—would take more time that he can spare. And so he determines he must resort to his old scams.

But a last minute act of compassion causes him to lose his best shot at a quick hit—and brings him into Erin O’Grady’s sphere. Erin is everything Jesse isn’t: wealthy, honest, a person of deep faith. The two of them, along with an orphan named Pete, set off on a mid-December trek from Boston to Wyoming by way of Chicago. Despite her faith, Erin suffers from the insecurities she developed as an overprotected daughter. Can Jesse truly change, and even if he does, will Erin be willing to forgive when she learns the man in the cowboy costume is just another street hustler?

What I liked most about Counterfeit Cowboy is that Williams doesn’t offer an easy solution to Jesse’s and Erin’s dilemma. Through much of the book I had some qualms about Jesse’s transformation and whether I’d believe a happily-ever-after ending for this couple. Without giving anything away, let me just say, “Finish the book.” Williams adequately addressed my concerns by the end.

As to whether the counterfeit cowboy ever becomes the real deal…well, you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Question for you: how difficult do you find it to change the behavior patterns that developed over the years?

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available  February 5, 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas from Anita Higman

Jen AlLee here, extending a big Inky welcome to author Anita Higman. Anita's giving away a copy of her new Christmas novel. Details for entering are at the end of the post.

What inspired you to incorporate Jim Crow laws and segregation into your book?
Even though A Merry Little Christmas is really a love story, I felt it needed some additional conflict, and some of the racial struggles of the 60s seemed to be the right choice for this particular plot. I grew up in the 60s, and I was always interested in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. In some ways I feel I’ve waited my whole life to write this book. It came easily to me in that it’s been percolating in my imagination for a long time, but it was also hard to write because I had to consider more deeply the injustices of that era. Even though it sounds like a cliché, A Merry Little Christmas truly was the book of my heart.

The farm scenes seem pretty realistic. Did you grow up in the country?
I did. While the small towns in the book are totally fictitious I did grow up on a wheat, cattle, pig, and chicken farm in Western Oklahoma, and it was pretty much identical to the one in the novel. If the farm scenes seem realistic it’s because I got to know farm life quite well before I moved off to college at eighteen.

Franny and Charlie come from very different backgrounds, but are both looking for something very different from the way they've grown up. Do you think as humans, we all just have a "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality?
Yes, that is a human frailty that is easy to succumb to, and I’ve been guilty of it as well. But God is good about reminding me that he’s placed me on my own unique life-road, and it may have little to do with anyone else’s journey. Besides, in many cases when we get a closer look at someone else’s “lush green grass” it usually turns out to be turf.

Do you think that sometimes we don't pray for what we want because we are afraid of getting what we pray for?
Perhaps that’s true, which would explain why Franny is equally nervous and excited about the sudden answer to her prayers.

Was there a reason you added the themes of Christmas and music to the story?
My editor asked me to add those elements, and it was a blessing, since Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I love music. Also, female readers in general love novels that are set during the holidays, and I’m hoping the music adds a cozy feel to the overall Christmas theme.

What is your favorite Christmas song?
“The Holly and the Ivy.” The song has a melancholy feel to it, but it’s also beautifully sweet. I love the “Currier and Ives” style pictures my imagination conjures up when I’m listening to it.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
I love to have my gal friends over for brunch around Christmastime. I have been collecting tea dishes for many years, and so when I do a brunch, I go all out. Women are usually in a service mode most of their lives so when they come to my house I want them to feel wonderfully pampered. And by the time they leave, I hope their hearts are a little merrier and they feel we’ve celebrated Christmas well!

Is Franny's character based on any "real life" person?
Franny is like me in some ways, but she has a lot more courage than I have and more laughter in her heart. So, really, I want to be Franny when I grow up.

Does the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" have a special significance to you?
The song makes me swoon it’s so romantic and lovely. It makes me think of being snowed-in with the man I love. Of course, that scene also needs a mountain cabin with a crackling fire and two mugs of wassail.

You have written everything from romance to suspense/thrillers to nonfiction. What is your favorite genre to write?
I love inspirational romance. There’s just nothing else like it for writing and reading. It naturally makes you want to curl up on an overstuffed couch and read the day away.

Win the Book
Anita is generously giving a copy of A Merry Little Christmas to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment to the post along with your email address. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, November 30th.

About the Book
Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds. Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who’s preparing to spend the holidays alone…again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny’s farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she’s more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart—that sometimes love comes when you’re least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?

About the Author
Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where do writers write?

by Niki Turner

When I was little I used to watch ants marching in and out of their anthill homes, bringing food for the colony or hauling out tiny particles of sand and soil as new "rooms" and tunnels were constructed. I wanted more than anything to be able to crawl into one of those tunnels and explore the underground chambers. Books with illustrations of rabbit warrens, fox dens, beaver dams, beehives and the secret interiors of other animal homes fascinated me.

As an adult, I find myself curious about the secret chambers of another kind of animal: writers.

Writing, as a profession, tends to be a fairly solitary activity. As such, pictures of famous writer's workspaces have been shared and posted and circulated for generations, satisfying our desire to peek into the creative processes and procedures of our favorite authors.

Here's a few...
Jane Austen's writing desk. Interesting article HERE.

Mark Twain's office (one of them) was in his billiard room. 

Charlotte Bronte's writing space.
Roald Dahl's writing shed. Lots more pictures HERE.
Robin Lee Hatcher's office space.

If you're a writer, where do YOU write?

Have you tried writing in a coffee shop, like J.K. Rowling? How about writing out-of-doors? Are you chained to your desk, or do you move around? Has anyone tried writing standing up (as Hemingway was said to do)? How much does your setting affect your creativity?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sherlock Holmes


Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

    Two days ago, Barbara Early gave us a fascinating post about Sherlock Holmes and his many incarnations.  And, truly, Holmes has been a quite popular character since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him in 1886, and there are a great many I enjoy.  But I have to admit I was surprised to see that Barb's post did not include the Sherlock Holmes, Jeremy Brett.
Granada's Television Series
    Brett played Holmes from 1984 through 1994 in the TV series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced by British television company Granada Television.  The first two seasons were titled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  Later came The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as well as five feature-length specials.  By the end of the series, Brett had played Holmes in 42 adaptations of Doyle's 60 Sherlock Holmes stories.  Quite a feat!
    One thing I particularly appreciate about these adaptations is that (with a few notable exceptions) they obviously take great pains to stay faithful to Doyle's stories.  Much of the dialogue is taken directly from Doyle's work, and the sets and costumes seem as if they could be from his time entirely.  And the closing credits are ornamented with the original illustrations used when the stories first appeared in The Strand Magazine.
Watson and Holmes from The Strand
    And, especially in the early episodes before his health began to decline, Brett looks very much like the lanky, hawk-faced Holmes of those illustrations.  He gives the character the calculated coldness one might expect, but there is also a fevered energy and poignancy to his performance.  His Watson, David Burke (and later Edward Hardwicke), is also much closer to Doyle's capable ex-soldier/physician character than the one portrayed in some adaptations (particularly the lovable but bumbling Nigel Bruce who was Watson to Basil Rathbone's Holmes in the films of the 1930s and '40s).
Holmes and Watson from the Television Series
    The series ended when Brett passed away due to heart failure in 1995.  But it seems likely that, since he had been seriously ill during the last of the series, he would not have continued anyway.  I am glad that he has left us such faithful and enjoyable adaptations of Doyle's stories.  For me, he will always be Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes.

Who's your favorite Sherlock Holmes?  Why?
Do you like adaptations of books that are extremely faithful or do you think film makers should make improvements as they see fit?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries will debut in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder from Bethany House.  A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

War of 1812 Heroine Laura Secord

by Anita Mae Draper

For those of you who didn't get a chance to experience the reenactments and celebrations of the 200 yr old event called the War of 1812, take heart because it didn't actually end until the signing of The Treaty of Ghent on December 24th, 1814. Which means there are more events coming up.

One of those events will be commemorated on June 22, 2013 with the opening of the Laura Secord Legacy Trail at Niagara-on-the-Lake, but here I am getting ahead of myself.

Laura Ingersoll
(from the Dictionary of
Canadian Biography Online at
Libraries and Archives Canada)
Laura was born on September 13th, 1775 in Great Barrington, Mass, the eldest daughter of Thomas Ingersoll who had attained the rank of Major in the American Revolutionary War.

Reputedly, Thomas received a personal invitation to settle in Upper Canada from an old friend, Governor Simcoe, who had once resided in the United States. Thomas accepted and emigrated with his large family to Upper Canada where Governor Simcoe granted him 66,000 acres of land and named him justice of the peace of Oxford County.

Thomas Ingersoll then moved to Queenston where he built and ran a tavern where locals could find refreshment. It seemed a young Loyalist's son by the name of James Secord began to spend a lot of his time at the tavern which worried his family until they relized it wasn't the liquor James went to spend time with, but the travern keeper's daughter. In 1797, barely 2 years after arriving in Upper Canada, Laura married James Secord and settled down in Queenston as a merchant's wife.

Homestead of James and Laura Secord, Queenston, Upper Canada

By the time the War of 1812 began, Laura and James had 5 children ranging in age from 2 to 10. And when war begins, husbands leave their loved ones and go fight for their families, their freedom, and their beliefs. And herein lies another story because in Oct 1812, James was wounded in battle and word came back to Laura. She left her small children with family, headed to the battlefield, and brought her wounded husband home. He'd been shot in the shoulder, but it was the musket ball lodged in his hip which kept him bed-ridden for life.

"Laura searches the bloody battlefield for her husband."

When the Americans invaded Queenston in May 1813, any male over the age of 18 was marched back to the States as a prisoner-of-war, but mercifully, disabled James was left behind. The Secord farmhouse, however, was taken over as a billet for 3 American soldies and Laura took on the additional task of serving them.

One night in June, Laura overheard the soldiers planning an attack on Lieutenant James FitzGibbon at Beaver Dams, some 12 miles away. At this stage of the war, the Americans had control of most of the Niagara Peninsula and FitzGibbon was bravely hanging onto his sparse British outpost.

Someone had to warn the British of the impending attack and with James unable to do it, Laura resolved to try. The next morning, she tucked her kids in bed with James, snuck past the pickets guarding their farmhouse, and began her trek. By road, the trip was 12 miles, but fearing military patrols, Laura struck off cross country where wild cats, bears, and quicksand threatened her mission.

Map of Laura Secord's Walk from the book, The Canadians: Laura Secord,
by John M. Bassett/A. Roy Petrie, 1974, Fitzhenry and Whiteside

After 2 days of walking over 20 miles, Laura found FitzGibbon and relayed her message.

Meeting between Laura Secord and Lieut. Fitzgibbon, June 1813
Oil on Canvas by Lorne K. Smith, Library and Archives Canada

With the help of their Mohawk warrior allies, FitzGibbon and his 50-man contingent won the Battle of Beaver Dams and held their post against the invading Americans.

And so Laura Secord became a heroine, right? Well, not right away. Lt. FitzGibbon's official report was quickly dispatched to his superiors without a mention of Laura Secord. Laura returned to James and bore him 2 more children. James received a small pension because of his war injuries, yet the Secords lived in poverty until James was appointed registrar, then judge (in 1833), of the Niagara Surrogate Court, and finally became collector of customs at Port Chippawa.

When James died in 1841, Laura was left without financial resources. She ran a children's school out of her Chippawa cottage for a brief period, and petitioned the government for a pension and other favours. She was unsuccessful. She also petitioned FitzGibbon for help and in 1820, he wrote the following testimony:

James Fitzgibbon's 1820 testimonial regarding Laura Secord

"Then in 1827, FitzGibbon wrote that Secord had come to him “on the 22d day of June 1813,” and “in consequence of this information” he had positioned the Aboriginal warriors to intercept the Americans. In 1837, he testified that Laura Secord had warned him of an American attack but he provided no specific date and he wrote, he said, “in a moment of much hurry and from memory.” Laura Secord’s petition for a military pension was refused." (

When Laura Secord was 85, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) made his 1860 visit to Canada. In the words of, "Laura Secord went to the office of the clerk of the peace at Niagara a month before the prince's arrival, where she insisted on signing the address over the objections of the clerk. She was supported by a local newspaper that heralded her heroics saying she had done more for her country than half the soldiers and militiamen engaged in it. She supplemented the address to the Prince with her own account and that of her husband in the patriotic service of their country. Prince Edward learned of Laura's twenty mile walk from the petition describing her war-time service. Of all who presented an address to the Prince, her name was the only woman's among the veterans of War of 1812. On his return to England, Prince Edward sent Laura 100 pounds in gold, the only financial reward she ever received for her service."

Accepted as a heroine - finally - by the future king of England, public recognition grew quickly. But as the legend of her escapade grew, people embellished it for amusement and almost destroyed the reputation she'd fought so hard to attain.

Laura Secord died in 1868, at the age of 93, and was buried beside her husband in Drummond Hill Cemetery, Niagara Falls. Laura's granddaughter described her famous grandmother by saying, "She was of fair complexion, with kind brown eyes, a sweet and loving smile hovering about her mouth." James Fitzgibbon remembered her as a person "of slender frame and delicate appearance, "which hid the strong and persistent will of a fearless fighter, a pioneer woman of courage, endurance and resolution, whose determined sense of duty is honoured still in the annals of Canada. (Both sources

Laura Secord's Tombstone, Drummond Hill Cemetery, Niagara Falls,
Ontario, Canada.

Over the years, Laura Secord has been recognized as a heroine in several ways, the first which is the bronze bust of a young Laura which was added to her gravestone (above) in 1901.

In 1992, Canada Post issued a series of 4 stamps commemorating Canadian heroes. One of those postage stamps depics Laura Secord running through the woods to warn the British. The caption reads, Legendary Patriot in both english and french.

Several monuments have been created in Laura Secord's honour including the Laura Secord monument right in her home town of Queenston, Ontario.

Laura Secord's Monument at Queenston Heights, Ontario, Canada
 [Heroine of the Battle of Beaver Dams, War of 1812 - 1814]
Postcard ca. 1927, NFPL Postcard Collection

The description for the above postcard reads, "Located in front of a low stone wall overlooking the lower Niagara River ( in distance) and the village of Queenston, the monument is set at the end of a walking path; three plinths of graduating sizes form the base; topped with a column and then a conical top; an oval plaque is centered in the column; a foot high wrought iron fence surrounds the entire monument; mature trees to the left and right of the monument; round formal flower bed in front of the monument; a wooden and metal bench seat is located behind the monument facing the view; title in red print top left; Crest of the British Empire reading On whose Dominion the sun never sets top right corner". Source: Niagara Falls (Ont.) Public Library Postcard Collection

I went looking for an updated photo of the Laura Secord Monument at Queenston Heights, and found this one on the Niagara Parks website:

Laura Secord Monument, historic Queenston Heights Park,

What? The image on the 1927 postcard shows the Niagara River in the background, but the current website image for Niagara Parks shows the river right there. Can the slight difference in camera angle make that much of a difference? The Niagara Parks image is promoting the spot as perfect for weddings. They couldn't do if the location shot wasn't real. So, I went back to searching Google and found this treasure which shows the land meeting the river just off to the right.

The Laura Secord Monument, Queenston Heights, on the Niagara Peninsula,
Ontario, Canada. c 1915, Niagara Falls Public Library

A second monument was created by sculptor, Marlene Hilton Moore. It stands 12 feet tall at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa.

Statue of Laura Secord at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa, Canada
photo courtesy of wikipedia

The farmhouse where James and Laura were forced to live and care for the billeted American soldiers (shown above) is now the Laura Secord Homestead museum.

Laura Secord Homestead Museum, Queenston, Ontario ca. 1979
Niagara Falls Public Library Digital Collections

And finally, in 1913, a chocolatier named Frank P. O’Connor opened a small candy store in Toronto. He named his store, Laura Secord because he wanted his customers to think of courage, devotion, and loyalty when they saw his products.

Candy box |  | m996x.2.512.1-2
Candy box, 1920-1950, 20th century, original logo

Current corporate logo for Laura Secord Chocolate

I've just realized this post is long enough already, and I've only now reached the point where I want to mention The Laura Secord Legacy Trail. But I don't want to tuck a brief note about it at the end of a long post, either. Especially when the planned event is 7 months hence. So, I will schedule another post for that topic and any other Laura Secord commemorative events scheduled for next summer.

Are you wondering what the citizens of Great Barrington, Mass think of Laura Secord?
Tell me what you think and I'll tell you what some of them have said.


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