Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cover for Once Jilted!

Grab that train ticket and prepare to ride. Once Jilted is bound for release soon. Whoop! If all goes well, the book might release mid-March, give or take a few days. I can't wait.

Find out how a woman with no family, jilted time and again by circumstance, finds love with a reluctant Irishman.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Excerpt from Once Jilted

Since I'm getting a wee bit excited about the book coming out, I thought I'd post another excerpt.


How many times will an orphan be cast aside before someone offers love?

Shauna Joyce has three weeks to find a husband or face watching a special little girl fall into the hands of loveless parents. An orphan herself, she knows the heartache of growing up without love. Armed with a need greater than her own, she finds a likely candidate in bridge-builder, Kane McKenna.

Kane McKenna has one goal; to finish the bridge he’s erecting so he can earn the capital needed to start a business of his own. A wife and child would drain his finances, so when Shauna Joyce proposes marriage, he balks at the idea. Will her determination be enough to build the bridge of trust needed to make him trade one dream for another?

Where would she go? She’d have left this house years ago if not for her fear of the unknown. Need for security had kept her a prisoner. Coward, coward, coward. Only a coward stayed in a home devoid of love. Where was the security in such a house? A person needed more than food and a place to lay their head. A body needed the emotional nurturing from another warm soul. By God, she refused to let Sarabeth live in a loveless prison.

She snatched up what few items she dared take. After stuffing a comb, toothbrush and a change of clothing into a small knapsack, she pulled the bottom drawer completely out of the dresser and reached underneath for a packet that contained fifteen years worth of savings. While renting the wagon and buying ingredients for pies had put a dent in the amount, she still had plenty to live comfortably for about two weeks. She stuffed the money into her pocket, hefted the knapsack over her shoulder and stormed from the room.

The three adults remained near the door. She brushed past them without a word. To think she’d entertained the notion that Kane McKenna would make a fine husband. She’d learned a valuable lesson, though. First impressions could not be trusted. She’d fallen for Darrell’s charm and look how that had turned out. No, first impressions were not always what they seemed.

The moment she left the house, a sense of freedom flooded her body. No matter how frightening the future seemed, she was now free of the Clevingers' influence, free to live her own life. Perhaps she owed Mr. McKenna her gratitude for setting in motion the catalyst for change.

The door clicked shut, and she took a deep breath. Even the air smelled different, cleaner. She smiled, and her feet itched to dance. First things first, though. With only a sliver of moon to light the path, she ventured toward town to find accommodations for the night.

A brisk pace propelled her forward. Eager to be settled for the evening, she almost skipped along the road.

“Noot so fast, lassie.” A huge hand clamped down on her shoulder. “You still owe me a wee bit of coin.”

She stifled a scream and whirled toward Mr. McKenna. “I’ll thank you to remove your hand from my person.”

“And to think, this very afternoon, you wanted me hands all over your person.”

She dropped her jaw and stared, clutching her meager possessions to her breast. “I wanted no such thing.”

“Is that noot what a hoosband would do if he were to marry you? And did you noot proposition me along with four other men?”

She scoffed. “Believe what you want, but I had a good reason for doing what I did.” Amazing the chain of events set forth by one, not-so-brilliant idea. Henceforth, she would think twice before listening to Lora Lee’s advice.

She continued to walk, but he stopped her again. “Give me a wee moment to fetch me horse, and I’ll offer you a ride into town.”

“No, thank you. I won’t be beholden to you.”

He narrowed his eyes and punched a finger in her direction. “I’ll noot let you walk the distance by yourself withoot an escort. The streets are noot safe at night.”
She skirted away from the accusing finger. “Well, I don’t need your chivalry. I’d sooner have Jack-the-Ripper walk me to town.”

“Aye, my point exactly. You are a blood-thirsty witch.” He chuckled.

She shot him a glance. “I’m sorry your men fell ill, but it wasn’t the pie.”

“Perhaps noot, boot you have to agree that the evidence against you is overwhelming.”

“Is it?” She sighed. “Could it have been something they ate at lunch prior to sampling my baking?”

He scratched his chin. “I ate alongside them, and I’m noot sick.”

“Will they be all right?”

“Aye. They took to their pallets aboot a half hour after you left. I went for the doctor, and he and I tended them until the worst passed. They’re resting noo.”
She frowned. Would bad food have caused such a reaction so soon after partaking of the meal? She thought not. More likely, it was something they ate at noon or even breakfast. Either way, he’d accused her unjustly.

“Best fetch your horse before you go too much farther or you’ll just have to double back.” And before she began dreaming again. Already, the nearness of Kane did strange things to her insides, but with his inability to look past circumstantial evidence, he was not the man for her. She wanted him gone, so she could contemplate all that had happened this evening.

“I still doon’t like the idea of a woman walking alone at night.”

“Nyesville is a small, quiet town. Trust me. My only real worry is you.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wanigans and Widow Makers

Because the heroine of The Outcast is forced to flee the couple who took her from the Orphan Train, she winds up as the female cook's assisitant in an Upper Peninsula logging camp. Which led me to writing this article:

In the early days, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, vast tracts of white pine (Pinus Strobus) stood in majestic forests, their huge trunks straight and symmetrical, their lofty needled tops reaching for the skies. Their trunks were four to seven feet in diameter and they could reach heights of eighty to one hundred and fifty feet. White pine needles grow five to a bundle, distinguishing them from the other varieties of pine. All pine is known as soft wood, but when it comes to construction, white pine is the king of lumber. Because of the country's great need for new building material in the late 1880s and 1890s there was increasing demand for lumber that was easy to easy to cut and plane. One such need came from the city of Chicago's intention to rebuild after burning to the ground in 1871. This city is just down Lake Michigan from the Upper Peninsula.
With Michigan's Lower Peninsula pine almost all cut, the lumber barons turned their gaze to the UP, as the Upper Peninsula is called. Lumber camps went up in the pine forests, quickly filled by lumberjacks from many European counties, as well as Canada. Though predominately Swede, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and French, other nationalities came, too, including American.
Cutting trees was dangerous work. Saws and axes caused many an injury, plus the felling of trees had its own dangers. The call of Timber! usually alerted all the crew to what was happening, so they could be sure to not be under the big pine when it came crashing down. But nobody could predict what they called a widow-maker. This was another tree that was hit by the falling one—branches, part of the this tree or all of it could come down as well. But in an unpredictable direction, sometimes killing unsuspecting jacks working nearby. Then, as logging lingo goes, the unfortunate man would "wear a wooden kimona," their word for coffin. Logging was not only dangerous but hard, back-breaking labor, the kind that made men hungry.
To be able to work hard in the cold of winter--for that's when the trees are cut—men needed to be well fed. Soon the camps that had the best grub, fed to them by cooks who knew how to concoct the tastiest meals, were the ones drawing the most lumberjacks. The cook shack became a very important part of any logging camp, and the cook reigned supreme in his or her domain. They were paid better than the lumberjacks, since a good one kept the crew happy.
To feed close to a hundred men required the cook not only to be talented with food, but to move quickly and to get the men in and out as fast as possible in order to clean up and begin preparing the next meal. Since this was clearly impossible for one person to do alone, all cooks had at least one assistant--cookees they were called--and sometimes two or more. The rule in all lumber camps was no talking while eating in the cook shanty, which kept the men from lingering after they finished eating. All meals were served family style on long tables with benches to either side. If a jack wanted to be passed a dish, he pointed at it.
Lumberjacks made up their own lingo. Potatoes were often called murphys, red horse was corned beef, redhead was catsup. Almost universally stew was slum-gullion. Beans, which the cook served often, were fire crackers, biscuits became doorknobs and tapioca pudding, fish eggs. Salt was gravel, canned salmon was called goldfish. The metal triangle the cookee beat on with a hammer to called the jacks to a meal was the gut hammer, while tea was lye and coffee, blackjack.
The biggest item in the cook shanty was the large cast-iron wood stove—usually a Joesting or Monarch-- with six to eight lids for cooking and a large oven. The jacks referred to this massive stove as "the iron duke." Sometimes there'd be another stove called a baker that was a series of ovens one over the other. The cookee had the job of cutting wood for all the stoves and firing them up in at dawn. If the damper was set right and the coals banked for the night, the fire never did quite go out. A never-empty big black coffeepot sat at the back of the stove at all times. In addition to the cooking stoves, there might be another barrel stove in the room for heat. UP winters are long and cold.
Kerosene lanterns hung over the table, their smell mingling with the scent of wood smoke and cooking odors of frying doughnuts, fresh-baked bread, coffee and whatever else was being served. At the back of the cookhouse were a wooden sink and drainboard, shelves with tin dishes and supplies, and long hooks that held cooking pans and utensils. Water was dipped from a hole in the nearest lake or river, then brought by sleighs with water tanks on them to the camp. At the end farthest from the fire inside the cook stove was a reservoir that kept water warm. But water for washing dishes was boiled in a large tub-like pan.
Because meat had to be kept fresh, an unheated meat house was usually built onto the back of a the cook shanty. Quarters of beef, pork and veal were kept here. Between the meat house and the cook shanty, was an unheated gangway where stood a clean white chunk of wood big as a stump—or it might be one—at the right height for trimming meat. Large wheels of cheese, boxes of butter, kegs of pickled herring and pickled pigs feet, smoked sausage, pails of lard, slabs of bacon and anything else that might spoil from heat, lined the sides of this gangway.
By the door to the gangway hung a long low rack of cleavers and razor-sharp knives. Wood cut to fit the stoves was also banked along the back wall. When the cookee wasn't shoveling snow or attending to other duties like peeling potatoes or washing dishes, he kept the woodpile replenished.
Most often at least one cat lived in the shanty to keep the mice down, sharing space with dried fruits, fresh oranges and apples, crackers, macaroni, gallon cans of vegetable, pickles and jams. Often a root cellar was dug into a nearby hill, or under the floor to store potatoes, apples, raisins and smoked meat. Eggs, too, if available—which wasn't often.
The cook and his helpers rose at half-past three in the morning, and after getting the fires going, the cookee first called the teamsters at four, so they could eat before they fed and harnessed the horses that would skid the logs down the roads a jack called the conman had sprinkled with water the night before so they'd be iced by morning. At half-past four the cookee hit the gut hammer or blew the gabriel—a long tin horn—to rouse the rest of the crew.
By the time the lumberjacks hit the cookhouse, the cook would have breakfast on the tables set with tin plates and cups, steel forks, spoons and knives. A typical breakfast might be pickled beef, sour-dough flapjacks, fried potatoes, smoked pork and gravy, sometimes beans, big cookies, doughnuts and cups of strong boiled tea or coffee, with molasses for sweetener.
A ditty of the camps went like this:
"Beans are on the table
Daylight's in the swamp
Hey, you lazy shanty boys,
Ain't you gettin' up?"
Though there was no talking, eating was far from quiet with the steel forks hitting the tin plates. As soon as the last man filed out, cook and cookee alike cleared the tables. The cookee then washed and dried dishes ands utensils while the cook began preparing the noon meal. If the jacks were cutting near the camp, they'd eat at the cook shack, but if they were some distance away, the cook prepared flaggins for their meal—thick slices of fresh-baked bread, large kettles of hot foot such as potatoes or roast meat and gravy, plus the left-over cookies and doughnuts from breakfast. If none had been left over, the cook made more, plus large cans of hot tea or coffee. This the cookee had to haul to the work area on a sleigh. The farther from the camp the men were, the more likely the food would be cold by the time he got there. When they finished, he hauled everything back.
By that time, more than likely the cook was already beginning to prepare what would be served for supper. This might be leftovers from the noon meal such as hash, pork and beans, served with mounds of bread and jam, pickled herring, cheese, fresh-baked pies, plus a new supply of doughnuts and cookies and occasionally rice pudding as a treat. \
When all was cleaned away from that meal, he went to bed. Sometimes the cook slept in a curtained off area at the back of the cook shack, and sometimes in a small extension separated from the main shack by a curtain so heat would filter through. The facilities were the same as for the jacks—an outdoor privy. But the cook usually rated a chamber pot as well—which might be nothing more than an empty metal container. The cookee would either sleep in the same area as the cook or bunk with the teamsters or the jacks.
The supplies for logging camp food were ordered by the owner and delivered to the camp. The cook was expected to make a list of what he needed that would extend through most of the winter.
When the spring break-up came, the log rollways that had been piling up all the through the winter on the river bank, were dumped into the flowing water to be floated down to one of the great lakes, where they'd be sorted by each camp's special brand for their trip to the sawmills. While they floated down the river, some of the lumberjacks went with them. Special "catty" jacks who could ride a log without falling off, made sure the logs kept flowing smoothly down the river.
Now the cook and cookee transferred to a much smaller cook shack that was fasted onto a raft—a contraption called a wanigan-- that floated down the river behind the logs, tying up to the shore at night to feed the crew.
At last the logs were on their way and the work was over. At least until the following winter when another logging camp would go up in another area of woods, needing jacks--and a good cook who knew how to feed them.

Jane Toombs

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trousseau and doilies

While I never really mentioned a trousseau, two weddings take place during Once Jilted. Actually three if you count the one in which the groom never showed. Regardless, back in the day, it was customary for the girls in a household to begin early on their trousseaus. They would learn to crochet, knit, tat, quilt and embroider. As part of the process, they would create items to decorate a home that would someday be theirs. Pillow cases, dresser scarves, table clothes and dish towels would all go into a hope chest for the future.


Above is a sample from my grandmothers hope chest, a dresser scarf that she crocheted as a child. The close up below reveals the double stitch she used in the pattern.

And while the heroine of Once Jilted, Shauna might not have had a hope chest because of her circumstances, her friend Lora Lee would have.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Release date!

Whoop! I just finished the first round of edits for Once Jilted and I must say, I'm very pleased. My editor is the best. She worked tirelessly to push this story along. So - I was very pleased to discover that Once Jilted will release earlier than first thought. It was supposed to be out in June, but now Champagne is shooting for March or April. Wow! How cool is that?

Monday, February 4, 2008

What a journey!

Once a Vagabond is now done. I really enjoyed telling Abby and Ethan’s incredible story.

I have laughed. I have cried, and even my heart raced a time or two, but like all good stories – the end has finally come. There were a few times that it felt like I was nine months pregnant and I just wanted to get it over. But most of the time I enjoyed writing about Abby’s temper and courage, and Ethan’s charm and resolve.

Now the hard part comes…waiting for Once a Vagabond’s release. Time was flying as I raced against my deadline, now it is crawling as I wait for Abby & Ethan’s story to get into reader’s hands.

I guess it’s a good thing that Once a Rebel showed up on my doorstep today. I can’t wait to read it. The plot is killer!

So until next time, happy reading.

Kim Leady

Incredible stories…Unforgettable characters