Satin Boots: Six Short Western Romances
Excerpt from Coming Home
Life is hard. No one knows this better than Dessie Humphrey who’s trying to hold onto the family farm. When aid comes in the form of a wanted gunslinger, she’s in no position to refuse.
There was a reason gravediggers were men. They had greater strength and could dig faster and deeper than any woman. Desdemona Ophelia Antoinette Humphrey—so named by her late mother, unlamented for saddling her with such a cumbersome name—wiped her sweaty forehead with the back of a dirty sleeve before shoveling the last few spades of dirt on her father’s grave. The milk cow lowed in the barn and the horses neighed from the corral, reminding her that they were hungry.
“I’m hungry, too,” she muttered to no one in particular and silently promised to say a few prayers over Papa’s grave the next morning. She still had work to do.
With a sigh, Dessie tamped the dirt and then dragged the shovel behind her on the way to the barn. She fed the horses first, then returned to the barn and fed the cow. The usually placid beast munched hay as she grabbed the milk bucket and a stool. After taking a moment to crack her knuckles, Dessie set herself to the task of milking the cow.
When the pail was full, she carried it into the house and set it on the countertop. The cat meowed, wanting her share of the warm, creamy liquid.
“Here you go, Faust,” she said, pouring him a small dish and setting it on the floor. Sighing, she straightened and groaned as stiffening muscles protested. She looked about the small cabin, two days of chores undone because she’d had to tend to her father’s body.
Damn him for leaving her all alone.
Dessie chastised herself under her breath for such uncharitable thoughts. Papa did the best he could. It wasn’t his fault he’d been gored by that bull. It wasn’t his fault the wound had festered. It wasn’t … Oh, yes, it was. I told him not to mess with that bull, but, no, he wouldn’t listen to me.
Her very bones ached with exhaustion, yet there’d be no supper if she did not cook it. She’d eaten the last of the bread the day before. Her eyes watered with self-pity as she hauled in a bucket of water to fill the kettle. After putting the kettle on the hearth to boil, she fetched the last few logs from the wood pile and added them to the coals. If she were lucky, the coals remained hot enough to ignite the wood. She wasn’t. So, she fetched some kindling and nursed the coals into igniting the kindling which then did their job by giving the logs enough time to catch fire.
She scooped out the last of the flour, made a basic dough with two eggs gathered from the hens that morning, a generous spoonful of bicarbonate of soda, and a splash of milk.
“I think we have some cheese left,” she muttered to herself and the cat, but found none. “Damn.”
She smiled, though the expression was bitter. She repeated the profanity a little louder. That felt good. Liberating.
She added more milk to the dough and kneaded it until the sponge felt elastic. Dessie plopped the dough into a Dutch oven and set it into the coals to bake. She’d have soda bread, fried eggs, and milk for supper. While the bread baked, she poured the remainder of the milk into the butter churn and began moving the paddle to make good use of the cow’s contribution to the household before the milk spoiled in the summer heat.
By the time she went to bed, Dessie was almost too tired to wash. However, her mother’s admonition of cleanliness being next to godliness mandated she expend the last of her energy fetching another pail of water and making good use of that. Respectable ladies did not retire for the night stinking like a stevedore.
Dessie’s last thought as she closed her eyes was that she had no idea what a stevedore was.
The merry chirp of birds mingled with barnyard noises of hungry animals woke her the next morning. Dessie regarded the soiled dress she’d worn the day before with distaste and decided to wear her other dress. Possessing a sum total of three dresses, all in various states of threadbare deterioration, she donned the one clean gown that remained. As had become her custom, she took care of the livestock before feeding herself.
So, after a stop-and-start week last week, life is getting back to normal which means busy.
Busy means, of course, that I'm strongly focused on paid work, because--let's face it--royalties from book sales aren't sufficient to pay the bills. Current client projects include:
I've been speaking with a potential client to edit his series of books, and I hope to bring on a more clients over the next several months.
But what about my own books?
After almost a month of absolutely no progress whatsoever, I added another chapter to my current work-in-progress, Hogtied. The working title for the story was originally "Black Ice," so named after the hero's motorcycle club, Black Ice Revolution. Most romances featuring motorcycle clubs tend to be--in my not so humble opinion--lacking in creativity when it comes to MC names.
Ah, there's that arrogance we all know and love!
The latest chapter took the book past 40,000 words. It's got a few more chapters to go, so I expect it to top out between 50,000 and 60,000 words. It won't be a long novel, barely long enough to qualify as a "real" novel. Of course, we know the end of the story: it will be an HEA (happily ever after). However, no plot survives contact with the characters.
I forget who said that originally, but it's nonethless true. When writing a book, I have a general concept in my mind as to how the story's going to go. The characters always--always--manage to throw in surprises. In this book, my heroine has an unplanned pregnancy and a truly TSTL (too stupid to live) moment that nearly kills her. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to extract her from the results of her TSTL decision to reunite her with the hero. A few ideas are simmering on the back burner, but nothing thus far strikes me as the right idea.
The delay in publishing means that the release date for Hogtied has been pushed back to February 14, Valentine's Day. Cross your fingers and hope that I'll make it.
For those readers in or near Toledo, Ohio, come to the Forest Park Mall on Saturday, December 14, for the Writer's Block Author Fair. I'll be there with 30 other authors. You'll find something to read and many books in various genres to give as gifts. Support indie authors!
MFRW Author 52-week blog challenge
I apologize for missing the last couple of weeks. For those who haven't heard, my father passed away. It's taken me a little time to collect my thoughts and drum up some smidgen of discipline to forge ahead with work and other commitments.
This week's blog challenge prompt is how to keep the romance alive as we age.
My parents were married for 55 years. When not napping, Dad's eyes lit up when Mom came into a room. Speaking with him while on an extended visit, in 2018, to help care for Mom as she recuperated from hip replacement surgery, he told me he still considered her beautiful after four children and all those decades.
"That's my woman," he whispered and smiled. My heart just melted.
I don't know if my husband thinks of me with that endearing possessiveness. I doubt it. Just as I no longer see him with the starry eyes of a 20-year old girl, he no longer sees me in the same way. We've both changed over the years. I can say now that I enjoy his company and conversation more than I did when we were dating. He's not as competitive with me as he used to be. He's learned to accept my writing and I've learned to accept his ephemeral interests in the many hobbies that capture his attention. He's learned to accept that, yes, I will always have at least one horse and multiple cats. I've learned to accept that too many tools is never enough. He can always make me laugh, no matter how dreadful the circumstances. I hope I do the same for him.
We have very different interests and that's okay.
With age (often) comes maturity. We've learned over the years and adapted to one another's quirks and idiosyncrasies. Some still irritate, but we've either learned to appreciate or shrug off most of them. Whether that's comfort or a mellow kind of romance, I'm not entirely sure. The hot, heavy, sexual romance fades, leaving in its place a gentler and more enduring type of love.
We don't need to spend every spare minute in each other's pocket. We have long since learned that marriage does not make us a single entity with a single personality. We are still different people with separate opinions and distinct preferences. With that realization comes tolerance and unconditional support.
Perhaps that's not the kind of romance we write about or dream about, but it's a real kind of romance that weathers the trials and tribulations of life without crumbling from a lack of perfection.