A Work in Progress

Karen's author photo apr 2019

By Karen Wills

Accidents happened, varied in their seriousness. In midsummer 1925, Jim rode a seasoned bay leading a strung-out group of pack animals that included a favorite of Nora’s, the big white gelding named Cotton Two. The mild-mannered horse had been named after one of the draft animals that pulled his and Nora’s wagon when they made their long-ago journey to settle on the North Fork.

A young man from Coram sat his mount in the center of the string while a jocular boy from Martin City rode in last place. Jim didn’t dare pigtail the animals. On this steep, narrow trail heading to Camp 4, if one horse stumbled over the edge it would pull the whole line down to their doom.

Cotton Two carried four 50-pound boxes of dynamite. Jim heard the Coram boy’s shout of “Damnation and hell fire!” A horse’s scream drowned out the rest. Jim turned to see Nora’s favorite slip over the side and roll down and down, disappearing among the trees almost at once.

The boys calmed their mounts, then stopped and took off their hats. They waited for Jim to say something as they gazed woefully toward where Cotton Two must have landed. Jim’s one word, “Detachment,” seemed to puzzle them. They shrugged, replaced their battered hats, nodded with troubled expressions, and proceeded.

At Camp 4 Jim spoke briefly to Michael and helped unload supplies before he rode back to Camp 1, headquarters. He ate a thick ham sandwich for an early supper, then picked out the horse they’d named for the original Cotton’s teammate, Wink. As the sun slipped toward the western peaks, he rode Wink Two along a darkening trail.

Jim wanted to be able to tell Nora exactly how Cotton Two died. He wanted it to be true that the animal perished on impact with a broken neck. He dreaded finding it still suffering and in need of shooting.

Jim’s breath came hard. He gasped air that felt cold in the back of his throat as he approached where he calculated Cotton Two’s carcass should be. He planned to bring home the horse’s pack saddle and halter, and hoped he could handle the job alone in the dark. His heart sounded in his ears as ragged as his breath.

A familiar whinny broke the night stillness. Jim got down and tethered Wink Two to a branch. He walked toward the sound, not daring to imagine what he’d find. He stepped into a clearing full of high grass. Cotton Two stood before him in the last light of the day, the sky like a wall of ice lit from the other side. Cotton Two grazed with the solemn mien of a stoic accepting whatever fate intended for him. Except for a torn, bloody ear, and a few long scratches, the gelding appeared able to stand without pain. After running his hands over the horse, Jim felt sure it had sustained bruises, but no broken bones or life-threatening injuries.

“Cotton Two, Nora will be so pleased.” Jim, astonished, paraphrased a line from the poem, Invictus. “Your head is bloody, but unbowed.” Then he stroked the animal he’d given up for dead and rested his forehead against its white muzzle. For a long while neither of them moved.

Jim finally raised his head and breathed in the cold night air. Nora’s horse seemed a miracle that called for some act of gratitude, some bloodless sacrifice. “We want to go home, don’t we, white horse? We don’t do so well away from Nora and Evening Star. We should give these jobs of ours to ambitious youngsters. The two of us have earned our rest.”

Cotton Two nickered in full agreement.

 

Excerpt All Too Human

Karen's author photo apr 2019   By Karen Wills

Gentle readers,

Here’s an excerpt from my historical novel, All Too Human: A Saga of Deadly Deceptions and Dark Desires. Lucinda Cale is writing a post-Civil War diary of her journey from St. Louis to the wilds of Northwest Montana as a newlywed married to wealthy and difficult Garrett Cale. Her life will take unexpected turns as will that of Rebecca Bryan, the novice attorney who, in 1905, finds Lucinda’s diaries. Enjoy.

Garrett hired five men at Fort Benton to ride alongside us as armed protectors all the way to Eagle Mountain, along with Louis the cook and our young driver and packer. The protectors are hard men. I’ve never seen even one of them smile. None have spoken to me or Peggy. I’m accustomed to men flitting like moths to my flame so this indifferent behavior unsettles me.

I admit it. Male lack of interest is new, and it stings my vanity. Did the war burn away any ability they once had to appreciate womanly charms? Did it leave their emotions hard as metal? Cold as ashes? Peggy declares herself insulted by their unconcern for her flirtatious approaches. She protested today, “How can they protect me if they can’t see me?”

Garrett made sure when he hired them that all five fought for the Union. I’m wary of them even as they fascinate me. In the circles I frequented back home I seldom conversed with or met any lower-ranking enlisted men. Plain to see, these hard souls who ride with us withstood merciless use in horror-filled battles.

I study them when I suppose they aren’t looking, but suspect they note my artless spying. They’re ever alert. Their eyes must miss nothing.

When one of them does flick a rare glance at me, sadness rests in his blear eyes. Each carries a brace of revolvers and long knives in their boots as well as his own rifle. Although their clothes are shabby and often carry several days’ worth of dust, they keep their weapons spotless and shining from well-oiled care.

Thoughts of my brother’s death in the horrors of battle haunt me like Mr. Poe’s raven haunted him. I think my grief will never leave me. Nevermore. Was it possible that cheerful Peter would have returned volatile as Garrett, or dour as these bitter men, their faces lined before their time? Would my own brother have been a stranger to me after being seared in the heat of bloody conflicts? I pray not. I hope Peter is with God and at peace.

River with No Bridge Excerpt

Karen's author photo apr 2019

By Karen Wills

Gentle Readers,

In my novel River with No Bridge, Irish immigrant Nora Flanagan comes through joyful adventures as well as tragic misadventures from Boston to Montana. With nothing left to lose she makes a last brave journey into the wilderness of the North Fork of the Flathead River to homestead. Her inspiring companion in the venture is the Chinese man, Jim Li, whom she calls her “only friend.”  This excerpt shows their first view of Flathead Lake. Enjoy.

After four hard days of travel, Jim pulled Wink and Cotton to a stop as they topped a ridge overlooking an astonishing body of sunlit blue water strewn with a few pine-covered islands. White peaks of the graceful Mission Mountains rose to its east. 

“Flathead Lake,” Jim announced. “As big as a sea.”

“It shines as bright as one,” Nora said, standing to stretch and appreciate the glorious revelation. “Jim, you’ve guided us to a place stolen from paradise.”

We must take care,” Jim cautioned, “There may be spirits in such water.”

Nora laughed, then remembered his mother had drowned. Still, the land before them held such fruitful promise. In all America nothing could be more beautiful.

The horses descended to the lake and plodded past Lambert’s Landing where they would proceed by ferry the next day. Its few rough-hewn log buildings, a large one in the center, comprised the only settlement to be seen. They continued five more miles to the ranch where the man who played his fiddle at the Bond home lived with his Nez Perce wife and their daughter. He’d invited Jim and Nora to stay at his ranch when they came through,

“We’ll be comfortable here,” Jim said.

Wiry Dave Polson and his family welcomed them. Hosts and guests ate venison stew at a table outside as the mountaintops glowed pink with what Dave called alpenglow. They visited and watched the lake’s blue water tint to cherry, lavender, then indigo. Wrapped in her shawl, Nora sighed in surprising contentment. She helped with the dishes, then returned to stay outside with Jim for awhile after the Polsons excused themselves to tuck their shy daughter in. It felt comfortable for Nora and Jim to be alone now with no real need to sort out or analyze who and what they were, the pair of them.      RiverWithNoBridgeFront(2) 

Nora reminded herself there were worse traits than mystery.

Ebook now available Amazon.com

 

April Book News

 

 

 

Q. What do April Showers bring?

A. Long days to curl up with a good book!

 

 

 

**************NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE************

all too human book cover 2In 1905, Rebecca Bryan, the first woman to practice law in Kalispell, Montana, is sent by her uncle/ senior partner to a remote hunting lodge near the Canadian border. She’s to find the missing will of his deceased longtime love, the wealthy artist, Lucinda Cale. 

After a broken coach wheel forces her to set out in the winter forest at night, she meets Lucinda’s compelling son, Bretton. Next morning he takes her to Eagle Mountain where she meets the rest of the dysfunctional Cale family. There Rebecca also discovers Lucinda’s hidden diaries which tell of a naive bride’s victimization that hardened her into a manipulative, murderous matriarch. Lucinda’s estate is large. Each heir is desperate. Those involved reveal themselves to be All Too Human.

All Too Human  by Karen Wills was released September 18, 2019 by Five Star Cengage. Now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, & Five Star Cengage.

Midwest Book Review calls “‘All Too Human’ a simply riveting page-turner of a read from cover to cover. ‘All Too Human’ showcases author Karen Wills’ genuine flair for originality and a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style that will make her deftly crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel an immediate and popular addition to both personal reading lists and community library collections.”

Karen's author photo apr 2019

           

For more books by Karen Wills     including information on her other or upcoming historical novels or to arrange a book signing or interview visit karenwills.com

 

The seven-part young adult crossover saga, “The Peaks at the Edge of the World” by M.F. ErlerPhoto.cropped looks into the future of faith in a world that is beginning to fall apart.  The members of the Parker and Sullien families share their lives with each other across time and space, in a feature called the GAP.  Each time one of them crosses this passage (similar to a wormhole) a side-effect is caused in the other’s world.   The Peaks Saga relates these effects and brings each of them to the Final Battle, where the fate of our entire galaxy hangs in the balance. Book 1 – Finding the Light: Young Jael’s family is being torn apart by the Galactic System.  Can he find someone to help rescue his sister Martina, before it’s too late? Book 2 – Searching for Maia: Jael and Martina flee their home planet with a GAP-crosser named Jon.  As they search the galaxy for a safe haven, they begin to wonder if there is any rescue out there. Book 3 – Mountaintops and Valleys: The three searchers have found planet earth, but is it really the mysterious Maia they were told to search for?  Nothing seems to fit what they expected, and soon threats are beginning to pull them apart. Book 4 – When the World Grows Cold: Twenty-five years have passed on Earth, in both the 21st and 31st Centuries.  Ginna and Martina, once connected across the GAP, now have daughters of their own, but they have taken very different paths. Book 5 – The Fountain and the Desertfountain and desert: The next generation is searching for what only the True Fountain in the Desert can supply.  Celestia, daughter of Martina, is determined to take three friends there by Crossing the GAP.  But something goes terribly wrong. Book 6 – Beyond the World: beyond the worldA new dark force is rising, forcing Celestia and her family to flee Earth.  When they discover a portal to a parallel universe, their hopes rise that they can escape.  But is there true safety in this strange new world? Book 7 -Where All Worlds End: The powers of darkness are now personified as a terrifying red dragon, which must be defeated for the galaxy to survive.  All of the GAP-crossers must work together to do this, but who is the traitor among them?

ALL OF APRIL EACH BOOK WILL BE .99 CENTS ON KINDLE

 

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Delighted to share the cover of THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES, the fifth Spice Shop mystery, out this July from Seventh St. Books, in paper, e-book and audio.  From the cover: 

Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. 

solaceofbayleaves

But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface …

Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.

Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.

As we’re all being reminded, books are a comfort during difficult times. I hope you have a stack of good reads close at hand, and that you’ll take a moment to order a book from an independent bookseller — we need them more than ever! If you do, pop over to my Facebook Author page and tell me what you ordered and the bookseller; when this crisis is over and libraries and bookstores are open again, I’ll choose a reader to win a book of mine or a bookseller gift card. 

Be safe. 

EVELYN AND LLOYD: A LOVE STORY

Karen's author photo apr 2019

 

By Karen Wills

 

Reading the letters, I came to understand just how difficult the long hardships and separations caused by WWII really were. Dad, a teacher, became a gunnery officer on a ship in the South Pacific. Mom stayed on the Big West Oilfield with her parents in their little house. My grandparents had one bedroom, while Mom and my two-year-old brother and eventually, I, shared the other.

The letters reveal little running jokes, stories about new and old friends, and earnest concerns of a young couple managing ration books and occasional train trips to be together on a shoestring budget. Their longing and loneliness come through. Here’s Dad:

Dearest One,

       I “writ” you one letter today. What am I doing writing again? Could it be love?

Mom wrote of how brokenhearted she felt after seeing him off at the Shelby Depot after his too-brief leave. She held up until, at the café, someone put the song “Together” on the jukebox.

They weathered the war and their years apart. All of it became part of our family lore. Their letters, though, were their story alone. Here’s a piece of Dad’s last letter before coming home:

     “Well, Honey, we have written a lot of letters, haven’t we? Your letters helped out immeasurably. You have been grand throughout this whole business, Sweetheart, and I can hardly wait to get back with you, and I hope to God that we won’t have to be separated again.”

karens letters blog

 

  They never were.
Originally published February 14, 2014