Hello, You Gotta Read! I'm excited to be here, sharing a bit about myself and my work with you. I've had a busy past couple months. Actually, 2010 was a fabulous year for writing; I can only hope and work hard to ensure 2011 and beyond continues to be so productive! Here are my answers to a few questions to get the ball rolling…
- How has your environment/ upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up and worked at a family owned/operated hunting and fishing resort in Northern Ontario. There was never a dull moment in those days, and I witnessed or was part of many exciting, challenging, and terrifying situations. Most of my stories are based in the wilderness where I feel at home, so it comes natural to write about it. I also have a shady past, therefore my writing
tends to be frank and edgy, with colorful characters.
- Tell us about your latest book. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
a) My latest book is a Historical Western from Embrace Books, an imprint of Salt Publishing.
Genteel Jamie Phillips stumbles upon the brutal whipping of a local colored man, Avery Samms. With sympathy in her heart, Jamie takes him to her home to recover, where a forbidden passion brings them together. Threatened by jealousy, hatred and revenge, they must fight for their lives and their love – under a savage western sun.
~ Excerpt from Chapter One ~
THE MOMENT JAMIE Phillips opened the porch door, a wave of heat smacked her in the face, threatening to turn the fresh powder on her cheeks into sweaty clumps.
‘Good lord, it’s hot as a wh*rehouse on nickel night. Don’t you agree, Shady?’ She gazed down at the stray b*tch she’d been feeding, who’d decided to keep Jamie company — for good it seemed. The black mutt whined and laid back down on the porch planks, obviously set against joining Jamie at the store. ‘Fine, I’ll work the shop on my own today.’
She set her bonnet straight and smoothed her dress, knowing full-well the heat and dust would render the new yellow frock into nothing more than a dusty rag, but mother always told her to look her best, no matter how stifling the heat or dirty the streets. ‘You stay here and guard the house,’ she told Shady. The mutt yawned and closed her eyes.
With a soft chuckle, Jamie stepped onto the footpath leading down the middle of her front yard, closing the gate behind her. Although the stray dog had the temperament of a lazy old man, she did enjoy her company.
The morning offered no refuge from the stifling California heat mid-summer. Three months past, she’d left the refreshing air of northern Washington to help run her cousin’s emporium in the fainting heat of the Sierra Nevada foothills. After her cousin, Isabelle Buford, died, Jamie was left with a store and a house she didn’t want. She was alone in this lawless town. Alone and neglected like poor ol’ Shady.
Directly across from Buford’s Emporium on the bustling main street of Cacti Junction was Barrett General store, the competition.
Since the day Jamie arrived, Elizabeth and Reggie Barrett had glared at her like she carried the plague. It was quite unsettling. But she held her chin high, learned the ins and outs of the business while taking care of her cousin until she passed away.
The snap of a whip resounded in the distance, disrupting her train of thought. Jamie squinted, trying to get a better view down the main street. The thriving scene before her already teamed with people sweeping their front steps. Others came and went on their morning errands. Carriages were loaded with supplies from the shops and several ladies were peeking through the window of the emporium, gazing at the objects she had on display. She even eyed a couple of drunks swaying in front of The Bleeding Heart Saloon, proof that strong drink wasn’t only enjoyed in the late afternoon and evening. But she saw no man abusing his horse as she’d first assumed.
Where was that sound of whipping coming from?
As if in answer, a group of men loading their wagon a short distance away paused, gazing toward something on the other side of them. Jamie picked up her skirts and continued on with a little more hitch in her giddy-up.
Another crack of the whip snapped in the air.
‘What’s going on, Billy?’
Jamie confronted Billy Wakeman, one of the young boys sweeping the steps in front of the saloon. The boy leaned on the pole-end of the broom, looked yonder and shrugged. ‘Don’t know. But I heard Mr Barrett yelling at some fella. Prob’ly some thief.’
The whip cracked again, and this time Jamie heard the distinct sound of a painful wail. ‘Oh, my goodness. He’s whipping a person!’ Without another word, she left Billy to his chores and headed to the scene.
She pushed her way through the large crowd now forming in the middle of the street. By the time she reached the circle, at least half a dozen cracks of the whip had resounded violently through the air. Grumbles accompanied the horrific sound. Anxious faces filled her vision. Some people even cheered Mr Barrett on.
When Jamie reached the opening of the circle, she gasped. Speckles of blood and torn cloth were splayed across the dusty ground. In the middle, in a fetal position, with his back sliced and bloody, lay Avery Samms, one of the few colored men in Cacti Junction.
Some inner-being raged inside her at the cruel atmosphere swirling like a bad disease in the hot air.
‘Isn’t somebody going to stop him?’ she cried.
‘They say he raped Mrs Barrett. I ain’t stopping ‘im,’ somebody answered. More people agreed, cheering Mr Barrett on with new vigor.
‘Get ‘im good!’ others shouted.
‘Mr Avery would never hurt anybody!’ she cried. Horrified by the lack of compassion in the townsfolk, Jamie stood there, stunned. She had thought Mr Avery Samms was respected.
Mr Barrett snapped the whip over and over again, until she couldn’t stand there and watch any longer.
They could say whatever they wanted, it didn’t mean poor Mr Samms had done anything wrong. She knew Elizabeth Barrett’s lying ways. Since moving to this town, Mr Samms had been nothing but pleasant to her and to everyone else who was fair to him. He was also considered a maverick with a pistol.
She lunged forward without thinking and covered his body with her own, just as the whip sliced through the air and cracked against her back. The tip curled around her side, biting into her flesh like a striking snake. She stifled a scream as a sting like she’d never felt before slithered across her body like fire. Still, she refused to budge.
* * *
b) I'm currently working on several stories. One is about a man who is saved by a mountain woman in the Canadian Rockies in the 70's; my long-term project is a full-length historical series spanning North America and Europe.
- Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Sometimes I struggle not to put too much of myself in my work. I have certain quirks and habits that tend to slip into my stories, and I need to remember, although the emotion and feelings are coming from me, the characters are their own. Too much of the same thing could get boring, so I do my best to keep my writing fresh.
- What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write whatever you want and to hell with anyone who doubts you.
- Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Like most authors, yes I do get blank mind at times. I think it happens most often to me when I work on too many stories at once. Then I know I need to sit back, reorganize myself and maybe take a day off. Once I get back into it with fresh eyes fabulous things tend to happen.
- How did you deal with rejection letters?
I worked harder and tightened up my writing. Rejections are there for a reason. Any author who takes a rejection to heart, or replies with a nasty letter to that editor, has no business being a writer. We will always be criticized, often misunderstood, but always, always, lift your chin and keep pounding those keys. Sooner or later a contract offer will be in your inbox.
- Which is your favorite of the books you have written?
The one I am promoting now, actually. My hero from Savage Sun is loosely based on my boyfriend, who is a strong black man. We are an interracial couple, and I had a burning need to write a romance about forbidden love between interracial couples in the old west, and this story came naturally. I was so into this story I wrote it within a week.
- Where can we find you on the net?
Thank you for having me, Brynna! I hope everyone enjoyed my little guest blog. If you'd like the chance to win a download of one of my books, all you have to do is leave a comment (include your email addy). A random winner will be picked at midnight (EST) on Feb. 24, and winner will be notified and announced on the 25th. I'm offering the choice of any ONE of my books to the winner. To view all my titles, please visit my website or my blog.
Good luck and happy reading!