Perfect for lovers of historical romantic mysteries.
Sir Henry, secret agent to the crown, must marry a lady above reproach to afford his illegitimate daughter entrance into society. After narrowly escaping marriage to a highborn bigot, he takes an assignment in Brighton, leading him to an abandoned abbey full of dark whispers, and a sinister secret society, the very one Henry has been investigating for three years.
Isabella is as beautiful as she is talented, but falling in love isn’t part of her plans. She only wants to paint, forget her painful past, and keep her overbearing mother at bay. But gaining one’s independence isn’t easy for a woman in 1823, so Isabella embarks on a fake courtship with Sir Henry. Soon, love and a painting career no longer seem so utterly incompatible.
But when the man Isabella fears most kidnaps her, all appears lost. Realizing the kidnapper is part of the same organization he is investigating, Henry chases after them. Entrapped in a web of secrets, both Henry and Isabella must face old enemies, and fight for their happily ever after.
About the Author
Bianca M Schwarz was born in Germany, spent her formative years in London, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and teenage son. She has been telling stories all her life and holds a degree in English literature. Her first novel is THE INNKEEPER’S DAUGHTER. THE GENTLEMAN’S DAUGHTER is the second and most sweepingly romantic book in THE GENTLEMAN SPY SERIES.
Today is the cover reveal for my good friend’s wonderful book – The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Bianca M. Schwarz. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Release January 12, 2021
In the twilight of a November evening, Sir Henry, a man of wealth and charm, comes across a badly beaten Eliza, desperate to escape her vicious stepfather. Realizing she has nowhere to go, Sir Henry takes her to his home in Mayfair.
There, as she recovers, Henry introduces the lovely Eliza to a world of art and literature she never knew existed. But Eliza’s brutal world follows her to London, where the salons of the aristocratic elite co-exist with the back alleys of the criminal underworld.
Thankfully, Henry, a secret agent to the crown, is able and willing to deal with the man Eliza’s stepfather had sold her to, and the pimp who plans to enslave her.
As romance blossoms between them, Eliza unearths an old secret that leads them into the dark sadistic world of sex trafficking, and finally allows Henry to identify the traitor responsible for selling military secrets to the French, causing the death of thousands.
A natural at the spy game, Eliza proves herself a worthy partner in their fight for truth and justice. But with time running out, and the fate of one girl hanging in the balance, Henry and Eliza must find a way to outwit a nasty pimp and eliminate a dangerous enemy agent.
I suppose I was thirsty for historical fiction and didn’t realize it. I’m a sucker for WWII novels, German or Russian literature/history, and women thriving in non-traditional roles. This novel combined all those so needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely. It does begin a little slow and seemingly with triviality, but it soon catches the reader unaware and sucks them (that would be me) in.
The novel is told in two parts by two different narrators. The first narrator is wildly unreliable; hence the perceived vapidity in the beginning. One might conclude certain negativity about her character (okay, me again) and one would be completely wrong. Although even in her banality, there are many reasons to like her anyway, and to root for her. The second storyteller drives that home, and you’re soon heartbroken you (*raises hand*) ever doubted or underestimated her.
If I haven’t mentioned, this is a spy novel (mostly) and you should read it!
So, my thirst has been quenched. Or perhaps maybe whetted for more.
I’m such a history fan. I loved reading one with POCs being brave and covert and important, and based on real characters. I recommend this highly to fans of histfic AND romance. Yes, there’s a hot romance too!
Please hurry and give us the next installment in this series!
The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.
After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.
Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.
No matter what it takes.
To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.
C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota. A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, “Cathie”is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Carl, but we do have some things in common. We both hail from Northern California, have a love of books, and have an intense interest in history.
Carl’s debut novel, The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, is a not-so-typical historical western novel set in Wyoming, and is out now. See below on where to purchase it.
Here’s a little more about Carl and his novel.
Author name: Carl Randal
Book title: The Life And Times Of Jackson Haines: Fairshot
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I grew up loving reading and books. As an only child who lived in a very rural location—in a house surrounded by orchards on all four sides and five miles from the town of Red Bluff, California—I’d often ask my parents to take me to the library, where I’d check out an armful of books, mostly novels and histories.
Later, when I moved down to Sacramento to attend college, I majored in Political Science with a minor in English, and then earned a master’s degree in English Literature, with an emphasis on creative writing. Because I elected to remain largely self-employed in the career world throughout my working years, I never had occasion to use either degree much, but I remained an avid pleasure reader, devouring literally hundreds of books over the years in my leisure time.
I always harbored the desire to become an author myself, dreaming up a vast array of plots, storylines for novels, and characters with which to inhabit those books over the years. As a lark, I enrolled in several adult education classes in writing fiction after I finished my formal education and usually was able to rise from student to being regarded as a peer by my various instructors during the course of the semester.
Now, with the release of my first novel, I’m realizing a long held dream.
Tell us a little about your novel: My current release, The Life and Times of Jackson Haines: Fairshot, may be thought of as fitting squarely in the western genre, but it is not your typical western novel. For starters, there is a gay bathhouse and barbering establishment owner who figures prominently in the story, and I’ve given the small town of Fairshot, Wyoming, in 1890, mind you, a gourmet dinner house which serves haute cuisine. There is a feisty, progressive-thinking preacher’s daughter who is all for women’s right to vote and a more independent role for American women and who nevertheless, has no qualms about seducing the book’s hero to get what she wants.
And my protagonist, Jackson Haines; you’ve never met a fictional character quite like him before. He is the best man in the world with a gun, and he knows it. He is flamboyant, theatrical by nature, and he enjoys putting on a show. Jackson is great friends with both society elites, by virtue of his dime novel fame—which he eagerly helps to nurture and grow—and with bona fide western legends like himself, like The Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, Luke Short, and Bat Masterson. He also counts Buffalo Bill Cody as a close friend and has toured England with the Wild West and met Queen Victoria in person.
The girl Haines meets in the novel, Hannah Barnes, is a good example of how some characters tend to take over a novel. She was totally unplanned, as a character.
She came out of nowhere and became central to the book. Hannah didn’t even have a name, in my mind, until she did. She was just some bit of business I came up with out of the blue, to help flesh out an unimportant scene.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): Nothing I’d want to lay claim to publicly; just some romance stuff under a pen name.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk: When things are going right, creatively, I don’t really write, I observe the characters actions and conversations, their thoughts in my mind and simply type them out. Sometimes their actions come as a complete surprise to me; they become real people and “take over” a story. I guess it would be fair to say I’m not the sort of author who outlines carefully and adheres rigidly to pre-thought out plan.
What are the big themes in your book: There really are no grandiose, hidden, symbolic themes running through this book. It is, at its base, a simple tale about a man who is accustomed to winning doing so again, against overwhelming odds and how he goes about doing it.
How did you decide on the setting for your book: I’ve been to Montana numerous times. It is still relatively big and empty, even today, and it must have been even less populated in 1890, the year the events in the book take place. I needed a setting like that, for the book to work, and Montana seemed perfect.
Which of your characters was the most fun to write: Hannah was far and away my favorite. She appeared out of nowhere and all but takes over the last half of the book with her feistiness, her bubbly personality, and her innate courage. She has a sort of naïve quality about her through all she experiences in the book that I find enchanting.
If you could be a character in your book, which would it be: Jackson Haines, of course; he’s handsome, bold, and a perennial winner in all he attempts. And he gets the girl. What’s not to like about being him?
What is your next project: Haines proved such and interesting character, I’m currently researching the second installment of his saga. There is, unfortunately, a lot of research involved in recreating the exciting period Haines lived in, just before the nineteenth century became the twentieth.
Reading about the times themselves, the intricacies of stage Buffalo Bill’s Wild West extravaganza, then disassembling it and moving it to the next stop on the tour—it is fine points like this that separate good historical fiction from the mundane. And I have no desire to write mundane fiction, be it historical or contemporary.
What authors have most influenced you as a writer: Reading the fiction of Ernest Hemingway made me want to be a writer. In addition to his larger-than-life persona, his prose was simply revolutionary for its time. If you don’t think so, try reading the novels of Henry James or Theodore Dreiser—both leading literary lights of the late nineteenth century—and then reading The Killers one of Hemingway’s early short stories, written during the first quarter of the new, twentieth century, and contrasting its stark, minimalist style with theirs.
Since I discovered Hemingway, I have read and enjoyed the work of many other writers. After all, I was an English Lit major!
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: Read a lot, and be sure to study what you read. How did he or she DO that? Why was that scene so gripping? Was it the pace, the language, the subject matter, the way the author presented it? Pay attention, all the time, and remember what you’ve learned.
Favorite song: I don’t really have a favorite, but I do greatly enjoy listening to the Beatles—even today.
Favorite movie/tv show: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Probably the greatest TV miniseries I ever saw was Lonesome Dove. The best weekly series was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Chosen superpower: Invulnerability
Toilet paper: over or under: Over, usually
Real book or tablet: Book
Star Trek or Star Wars: Star Wars
The first thing he did, when he’d ridden back into town and stabled his horse again, was to stroll into the general store that Roscoe Cone owned a half interest in and buy a pruning saw that folded up, the blade sliding neatly into a slit in the middle of the handle that had been cut for just that purpose, easy storage. He slipped the saw into the saddle bags he was toting over his shoulder, picked up his Winchester, and started back to his hotel.
He nearly ran right into a very pretty young lady on his way out of the store. She came bustling in the front door just as he was heading out of it.
Tipping his hat and smiling in apology, he deferentially backed out of the way to allow her to enter. She was probably in her early twenties, and was extremely attractive in a countrified, growing-up-in-the-middle-of nowhere, in rural Wyoming, sort of way. Her complexion was slightly wind-reddened and apple-cheeked, and her deep blue eyes were almost startling in their clarity and brightness.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” he told her as he stepped completely out of her path. “I was in a rush to get back to my hotel, and I didn’t look where I was going.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right,” the girl told him, blushing just slightly in a most beguiling manner. “I’m afraid I wasn’t watching where I was going either. I’d heard that Mr. Crosby had gotten in some of the latest style hats from back east, and I couldn’t wait to see them.”
“I’m sure none of them are pretty enough to do you justice, Ma’am,” Haines said, flirting with this fresh-faced prairie belle a little, enjoying himself immensely.
“Oh, aren’t you kind?” the girl smiled, her blush deepening. “You said that you were at the hotel. Are you staying in town long, Mister….uh, I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”
“Smith,” he told her, bowing and tipping his Stetson just slightly, “I’m Timothy Smith, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. I’m looking over some business opportunities here in your fine city.”
“Oh, how exciting!” the girl bubbled. “I’m Hannah Barnes. My father is the Reverend John Barnes. You must come and hear him preach this Sunday, at nine o’clock, sharp, if you’re still in town.”
“What denomination does he represent?” Haines inquired politely, as though he might actually consider attending a sermon.
“Oh, we’re Baptists, through-and-through, of course,” she said, as if everyone who was anyone around these parts was a Baptist.
“Well, then, I’ll make it a point to attend, if I’m still here this Sunday, Ma’am. I’ve always enjoyed Baptist sermons; I’m partial to a little fire with my brimstone, you see.”
With that, he tipped his hat politely once more and went out the door, leaving the enchanting Miss Barnes to puzzle out whether he was, indeed, a dashing stranger or a saucy rogue of some sort, what with that chiding bit of banter about fire and brimstone.
Haines walked up the street, a huge smile on his face. He’d genuinely enjoyed flirting with young Miss Barnes and teasing her just slightly.
He took a deep breath, liking the bracing Wyoming fall air very much, and positively reveling in his last afternoon of freedom and anonymity for the foreseeable future.
In just a few hours, he’d be Jackson Haines once more. When he wasn’t the internationally famous Haines–when he was masquerading as nobody Tim Smith–he could do whatever he pleased.
He could sleep late, stop for a beer, chat with a pretty girl—a girl who wouldn’t have said “boo” to him, had he been decked out in all of his Haines finery and sporting the big hat and fancy guns. She’d have been too intimidated to even acknowledge him, had she run into the famous western legend in that store just now, instead of affable saddle bum, Tim Smith.
Haines sighed. In some ways, he much preferred being Timothy Smith to Jackson Haines.
When he donned the Haines regalia, it was like dropping a large red bull’s eye over his chest and across his back at the same time. Once people knew that Jackson Haines was amongst them, things changed abruptly for him; there could be no more careless strolls down the street. When you were Haines, there was only vigilance and watchfulness and caution; hands hovering near your guns at all times, your eyes and ears searching constantly for possible ambushes and back-shooters.
Oh, well, he thought, you are who you are. No one notices Tim Smith, but then no one is clamoring to pay him thousands of dollars to take care of their problems for them, either. You can either be anonymous and broke, or famous and on your guard at all times, I guess.
With that, and a final small backward glance toward the front of the general store–where Miss Hannah Barnes had just emerged wearing a very fetching new hat with a wide brim and a bunch of fine white lace on one side of it atop her golden-brown mane of upswept hair–Haines turned on his heel and crossed the street toward his hotel.
When he got there, he stowed his gear in the closet, took off his boots, and laid down on the bed for a nap. His last thought before dropping off to sleep was: need my rest–tonight should prove to be a busy night.
I have the pleasure of introducing a wonderful debut novel. Please check back Monday for a full interview with the author.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JACKSON HAINES: FAIRSHOT
BY CARL RANDAL
It was the fall of 1890, a mere decade away from the twentieth century. But some parts of the west were still as woolly as they’d ever been.
Fairshot, Wyoming, is just such a spot. Jackson Haines is a household name in America, known far and wide as a dandy, a high-stakes gambler, and a sometimes lawman who’ll tame the wildest town—for a price.
He’s in Fairshot to do just that. But with cattle baron Ike Hillyard against him, backed by his vast wealth and as many hired guns as he needs, will Haines’s skill with a pistol and his dime novel reputation as the Deadliest Man Alive be enough?
When Carl Randal settled into an early retirement a little while back, he decided that now was the time to realize a lifelong dream; that of being an author. While this is a secret desire of many, relatively few actually pursue a second career as a writer.
Perhaps it was a long-held interest in fiction and its creation, maybe it was his educational background in English Literature—and not wanting it to go to waste—but Randal proved different. His latest venture into novel writing is the first part of a planned series of books concerning the life and times of the legendary Jackson Haines, adventurer, sometimes lawman, entrepreneur, gambler, and famous frontier character.
Hard at work on research for the second Haines novel, Randal enjoys reading fiction for pleasure, day trips around his northern California base, and relaxing with friends and family. His literary interests are wide and varied, so don’t be surprised to see a mystery, or science fiction novel, or a contemporary thriller from this author.
He has lots of book ideas, and he wants to explore them all…
I often tell people that the reason I got my book deal is because of the author I’m hosting today, C.H. Armstrong. In a way, it’s actually true. Cathie posted about her great experience with the process for publishing her book, The Edge of Nowhere (see my review), in a Facebook group we both belonged to (we’re both huge Outlander fans). At the time, I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do with my manuscript. After seeing her positive post, I submitted to her publisher and now Penner Publishing is our publisher. We’ve since become great friends and I’m so pleased to be able to share a little about her with you today.
Author name: C.H. Armstrong
Book title: The Edge of Nowhere
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I’m an Oklahoma girl transplanted in Minnesota for the last 23 years – but I’ll always be an Okie at heart. As such, I’m a rabid Oklahoma Sooners Football fan. My hobbies are (shocker) reading and writing. I’ve been married for 23 years, and together we have a 19 year old college sophomore and an 11 year old 5th grader.
Tell us a little about your novel: Inspired by actual events, The Edge of Nowhere is a fictional take on the experiences of my family – specifically my grandmother – as they rode out the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl. It tells the story of a young woman who is widowed with nine children just as the Great Depression and Dust Bowl Kick into high gear. Her husband’s death has left her with a farm that won’t produce, a mortgage she can’t pay, and nine children she can’t feed. But she’s a resilient woman and refuses to be a victim. As a result, she makes desperate choices – arguably despicable decisions – in order to feed her children and survive.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): I currently have a Young Adult novel about a high school senior who finds herself and her family homeless in the midst of a Minnesota Winter. It, too, was inspired by actual people – this time, people I met in the homeless community when I was assigned by a local magazine to write an article on a nearby soup kitchen. That assignment was life-changing for me, and I just couldn’t get the people and their circumstances out of my head until I committed them to the pages of a new manuscript.
I’d love to give you a release date on this novel, In My Shoes, but this manuscript is still searching for a home. I’m currently in the process of querying literary agents and small publishers, but I’ll keep you posted if you want! 🙂
Q & A
What are the big themes in your book: Probably the biggest theme in my book is the importance of family. My main character, Victoria, begins the story with virtually no family at all. By the end, she’s the matriarch of a huge family, all of whom are very close. But creating and maintaining that family came at a huge cost. Like the main character, my grandmother died the matriarch of a truly huge family of scores of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. Those of us left behind are still very close, and family is absolutely the most important thing in my entire life…and I hope the reader “gets” that when turning the last page.
What do you like to have with you while you’re writing: Peace and quiet. No joke – I can’t write with the TV or Radio on. I have to wait until the family is asleep or gone because I completely immerse myself in the lives of the characters, and any outside interruption totally disrupts my thought process.
Is there a supporting character in your book you’d love to write a story for: Oh yeah! I’ve thought on this a lot. As the story is loosely based upon my father’s family, I’d like to do a follow-up story on either Ethan (who represents my father in the book) or Jack (who represents my Uncle Bill). Both men had very interesting lives. I’m still just mulling this around, but I think it would be fun to try to write both of their stories simultaneously, switching off points of view through the chapters from one to another, until they finally meet up again in their adulthood. Both men came from the same poverty, had truly interesting lives, then ended up in completely different places. My father went on to do things like bull riding and became a career Army man before earning three masters degrees and settling down to teach high school. My uncle also sowed his wild oats, spent three tours in Korea during the Korean War, and eventually raised a large family of children and grandchildren, before retiring as a truck driver. And the two men – while ending up in completely different places in their lives (one more refined and the other “gristly” – were not only brothers, but the best of friends. I think there’s a huge story there about the love of two brothers, and the bonds of family and friendship.
If you could have lunch with any author, who would it be and what would you order: Maya Angelou. I know she’s now deceased, but that woman was beyond brilliant. Everything she said was profound and completely thought provoking. I feel like I’d walk away with a new vision on where to take my life and how to live it. I absolutely admired her and was devastated at her passing. In terms of what I’d order? Something not messy – I tend to spill on myself more often than I’d like, and I’d prefer not to wear my food while meeting with Dr. Angelou.
Who’s your most memorable book crush: Rhett Butler. Yeah-yeah…I know. But I’ve had this huge crush on Rhett Butler since the first time I read Gone with the Wind. He’s so tolerant and finds humor in all of Scarlet’s antics, and I love that about him. My favorite scene maybe ever – and probably the one that made me fall in love with him – is when Atlanta is burning and he leaves everything behind because Scarlet has called for him to rescue her…again. And when she goes to lock the front door and he chuckles, commenting something along the lines of “Trying to keep the Yankees out?” I absolutely swoon!
What is your favorite book: Without any doubt, To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it the first time in probably 8th grade, and have continued to read it at least once or twice a year since. As my character in my YA novel says, “It’s like an instruction manual on how to live life.” It’s filled with all the lessons that you want your children to learn – be kind to people, don’t assume you know everything about a person, and — most importantly, maybe – don’t judge others until you’ve walked around in their shoes for a while. The whole book is filled with instructions on tolerance and love, and I think we’d all be better people if we heeded the lessons of Atticus Finch.
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: Write the novel that you want to read. If you truly love your story and how it rolls out, chances are others will true.
Favorite song: “We Shall Be Free” by Garth Brooks
Favorite movie/tv show: I’m currently a HUGE fan of Outlander. ::sigh:: Could Sam Heughan be any more perfect for the part of Jamie Fraser?
Chosen superpower: Invisibility
Toilet paper: over or under: Seriously? Under.
Real book or tablet: Tablet
Star Trek or Star Wars: Star Wars
Victoria has recently lost her husband, Will, and suffered another tragic loss when she’s visited by her adoptive parents, Father Caleb and Mother Elizabeth:
“Father Caleb stopped the car some twenty feet away. I watched as his bushy brown head emerged from the vehicle, followed closely on the opposite side by Mother Elizabeth. For a moment my heart squeezed…with love? Pain? Regret? I wasn’t sure. I massaged my chest to ease the ache.
I stepped out onto the porch and could see the tears in Father Caleb’s eyes. Reaching for me, he enveloped me in a hug.
“You didn’t tell us. Why?” he asked, the pain evident in his voice.
“I couldn’t,” I said. I couldn’t because I didn’t know how to tell them. I couldn’t because I didn’t want them to know. I couldn’t because telling them made the loss more real. So many reasons why I simply couldn’t.
Father Caleb released me and Mother Elizabeth pulled me into her arms. She cried openly. “You’ve had so much loss in such a short time. You should’ve sent word. We could’ve been here for you.”
“There’s nothing you could’ve done.” Gently, I pulled away from her embrace. “Come in for some coffee?”
Mother Elizabeth took my arm, while Father Caleb followed behind. Seating them at the table, I turned to make the coffee I had promised.
“Where are the children?” Father Caleb asked.
“Catherine, Grace and Jack are at school. Ethan and Sara are sleepin’. It’s nap time,” I said with my back to them.
“I forget they have school,” he said. “It’s been so long since we’ve had little ones in the house.”
“For how much longer, I’m not sure,” I told him. “Things are gettin’ harder here, and I’m gonna need the three older ones to help the twins out in the field. I’m tryin’ to keep ‘em in school as long as I can, but I’m not sure how much longer this can go on. We’re gonna need all available hands here soon if we’re gonna be able to eat.”
“Is it that bad?” Mother Elizabeth asked.
“Worse,” I answered. “Will had some money set aside before he died but I had to use most of it for Dr. Heusman and then for Will’s funeral. And then…then there was this burial.”
“I’m so sorry,” Father Caleb said.
“Me too. We’re just barely scrapin’ by until harvest season. The twins are hopin’ for a bumper crop to pay off the bank.”
“Will owed money to the bank?” Father Caleb asked.
“Yes. Remember that equipment he bought a couple years back? He needed it to plow up another of the fields that wasn’t bein’ used. He was hopin’ the extra wheat would bring in more income, but then we didn’t get much rain. All but a little bit of the crops dried up. He took what he could to sell, but we didn’t get paid nearly what the grain was worth, and we were lucky to come out on top. Not much on top, but more than some.”
“How’re you managing to get by?” he asked.
“Day by day. The twins have been a godsend. They’ve brought us a few jackrabbits here and there. They said the rabbits have gone plum nuts, and they’re all over the place right now. So that’s brought in some meat. We’ve still got that last sow that I’m savin’ for an emergency; then we have that old cow, but we need her for milk. We’ve butchered all but the rooster and two chickens. But even they’re eatin’ more than they’re givin’ off in eggs, so they’ll probably have to be the next to go. We’ve got a herd of young cattle out grazin’ the front forty, but the twins are hopin’ to sell those off this summer to make up whatever comes up short from the harvest. If it’s a good one, we can keep the profits from the sale of the cattle, and we’ll be in much better shape.”
“And what about cash on hand? How much do y’all still have?” he asked.
“Not much. Some loose change, mostly. Sara got into the can I’ve been using to save what we do have, and she swallowed two dimes. Damn that child,” I said, shaking my head. “Catherine and I set her on a bucket every time she needed to use the toilet ‘til she finally gave up those dimes.”
“For two dimes?” Mother Elizabeth was shocked. “How long did it take?”
“Victoria, I just don’t know what to say. Why didn’t you tell us?” she asked.
“I didn’t want you to know. What good would it’ve done? Y’all two are doin’ okay, but I know you don’t have any extra; and I know you’d go hungry just to make sure we didn’t. I didn’t want that. I still don’t. I’m just telling y’all ‘cause you asked, and you’ve been too good to me to lie to you.”
“What can we do?” Father Caleb asked.
“Nothin’. I can’t think of anything that’d make this better, save havin’ Will back or God droppin’ money from the sky. Not likely that either’s gonna happen, so we just keep on keepin’ on.”
“I know it’s so soon, but have you thought about remarryin’?” Mother Elizabeth said.
“I don’t wanna remarry. I didn’t wanna marry the first time. You know that,” I said.
“I know, but times’re hard. If you had a man around here to handle the farm and do more of the hard labor, it might help,” she said. “It’s not really about what you want; it’s about keepin’ the kids fed and clothed and a roof over their heads. Just think about it.”
I didn’t respond. She’d planted a seed in my brain, but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that it might be the answer to our problems. I hated the thought of remarrying. But I also knew that I’d do anything to survive.
C.H. (Cathie) Armstrong is a 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in History. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Cathie currently resides in Minnesota with her husband and their two children. She enjoys reading and writing, and is happiest when curled up in a comfortable spot and lost in the pages of a good book. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel.
In line with my Outlander obsession, I was so intrigued by and pleased to submit to the Cooklander cookbook, the brainchild of Debra McGill. One, because it involved the “fanmily” of Outlander; two, because sales from the cookbook goes to the three charities supported by Outlander royalty; and three, because I always have some treasured recipes I want to share with everyone.
Although all recipes submitted did not make it into the cookbook, I was fortunate enough to have both of my submissions published in Cooklander. As if that isn’t cool enough, I’m extremely pleased with the placement of them.
My Seafood Dressing is the first recipe under the Vegetables and Side Dishes section.
Wow, look at that! My Breast of Chicken with Sauce Champignon is right above a recipe submitted by showrunner Ron Moore, and his wife, costume designer Terry Dresbach. For an Outlander fanatic like me, that’s pretty wonderful.
To tie this in with Kelly Cain, author, there is a recipe in the cookbook that Liv from my New Adult Romance, Altered, makes – spinach enchiladas. The enchiladas’ recipe is from the creator and author of the Outlander series Herself, Diana Gabaldon. You will also find her mentioned in the acknowledgements of Altered.
A little more about the cookbook. Although not all recipes submitted were published, 550 were. That’s a bunch and these are recipes that are tried and true. These are family recipes (like my dressing) or simply recipes that have been made and enjoyed for years (like my chicken breast). Every continent is represented (except Antarctica) with almost 300 contributors.
If you want to purchase the cookbook, there are a limited amount available. Go to the website to find out more or to order, and remember, all proceeds go to charity. Bloodwise is especially close to my heart since my dad has been living with leukemia for almost four years now. I’m copying the three charities supported from the Cooklander About page because they can do them more justice than I can:
Bloodwise – Formerly known as Leukemia & Lymphoma Research, is the UK’s biggest blood cancer charity. Working to beat, treat, cure and prevent blood cancers. Bloodwise researches, helps, campaigns, shares learning and raises money. Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser in Starz series Outlander, supports Bloodwise. See https://bloodwise.org.uk/ for more information or to make a direct donation to this organization.
NPH USA – supports Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (Spanish for “our little Brothers & sister”) raising children and transforming the lives of more than 3,400 orphaned, abandoned & disadvantaged children, in 9 countries, by providing shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, and education, in a Christian family environment, based on unconditional acceptance, love, sharing, working and responsibility. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander book series, supports NPH USA. See https://www.nphusa.org/ for more information or to make direct donation to this organization.
World Child Cancer – Their mission is to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and care for children across the developing world. Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser on Starz Outlander, is the patron of World Child Cancer. See http://www.worldchildcancer.org/ for more information or to make a direct donation to the organization.
Cathy and I are published by the same press, Penner Publishing, although I do not know her as well as I do some of the other authors. I have read her debut historical fiction science novel, Natural Attraction (see my review), and I have had some interaction with her. I think she’s incredible. I follow her Twitter closely to keep up with all the quirky and interesting science stuff she posts as well as listened to a radio interview detailing the process of how Natural Attraction came about – it was fascinating. I’ll post links at the end so you can follow into her wondrously experimental world.
Author name: Catherine Haustein
Book title: Natural Attraction
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I’ve always enjoyed traveling through life in several directions as a mom, scientist, teacher, and author. I’m married and have two dogs, three kids, and seven grandkids. I like live theater, music, and walking. ( I don’t like to drive. ) I’m from Michigan but call the small Dutch town of Pella, Iowa home.
Tell us a little about your novel: Set in 1871, it’s about a young woman who wants to be a scientist so she takes a tonic that allows her to resemble a man. She goes on a prospecting expedition as their naturalist and falls in love with a preacher.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): I’ve written numerous short stories. My most recent is in an anthology called The Female Complaint. I’m working on another novel and a novella right now. When my kids were teenagers and I felt really poor I wrote non-fiction for encyclopedias and companies. I’ve also written two lab manuals.
How long did it take you to write your book: Two years.
Is there a specific time of day that you enjoy writing the most: I’m a morning person and fortunately my dog is too so I have someone to share it with. I like to write when I first wake up and then before bed.
Is there a supporting character in your book you’d love to write a story for: Yes, the Madame’s daughter Mae Peacock.
What’s an aspect of being a writer that you didn’t know about going in: How isolating it can be. I have an MFA so you think I’d know but working shopping stories and drinking with your writer friends isn’t the same as working alone on a novel.
Science based novels are usually set in the future. Why did you place yours in the past: I chose to set Natural Attraction in 1871 because it was a time of great social change. The theory of evolution and the discovery of sperm and egg cells were quietly ushering in ideas of social equality. I wanted to compare the past with today to show what has changed and what hasn’t for women.
What challenges do you see facing you as a writer: Getting romance readers to see science as something accessible to them and getting scientists to appreciate the craftsmanship found in a romance and the importance of fiction.
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: I like duotrope.com for finding new markets.
Favorite song: Silver Lining by First Aid Kit
Favorite movie/tv show: The Lego Movie
Chosen superpower: Shape shifter
Toilet paper: over or under: Random
Real book or tablet: Real
Star Trek or Star Wars: Trek
During the six-day train ride, as the transforming hand of science moved over me, Oudwijf Gesternte, a retired teacher of classics on a trip to visit her sister in San Francisco, patted my hand and called me “sonderling,” which sounded close to the Dutch term for “odd.” On occasion, she whispered clove-scented advice on how to be a man.
“Don’t cross your ankles. Sit with your knees apart.”
“Keep your hands off your face unless it is to scratch something.”
“When thinking, put your hand to your chin, or place your elbow on your knee and rest your chin in your palm.”
“Look straight at a person when you address them. Casting your eyes down is for women.”
“Shake the hand of a man firmly. Kiss the hand of a woman.”
I wrote her advice in my sketchbook and studied it as the train rode on. Spookstad’s roll of water on sand and fog horn’s moan were superseded by the rhythmic strain of pistons in cylinders and the startling shriek of steam whistle. Until this time, I’d gone nowhere but Chicago by boat. The train didn’t reach Spookstad yet and our only visitors were lumberjacks rolling logs down the Zwart River. We were a place few could find and even fewer left.
I re-read The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection and studied my Field Guide to Order Rodentia, pouring over drawings, descriptions, and observations of connection and struggle between living things. When my ardor and choleric ambitions exhausted me, I slept in the steamy sway of the Pullman, traveling the path forged by General Dodge and his crew with nitroglycerin.
In a coal-fired haze, I questioned why I wanted to be a scientist at all. It began, I decided, when Granny and I turned over a pine log and found a salamander – simultaneously aquatic and earthy, a product of water and forest. I knew then the enticement of discovering hidden things and that every species has a story to tell filled with intimacy of different ilks. Among the salamander, the male will court but leave his spermatophore on the ground, letting the untouched female retrieve it. Some animals knew how to make things better for the females of the species.
I had good hands for sketching and a mind for numbers, both traits valuable to scientists. Science drew me towards it as a well-adapted mate. I didn’t take after my mother, a beautiful woman with a tiny waist, love of French fashion, a perfect passionless disposition, and a life that was pleasant, settled, but done. I feared such an early resolution to my own brief existence. A man such as Darwin, by example, wrote his incendiary book at age fifty and rumors are that he has more to come – a tome on sexual selection and human origin. A man over sixty barely getting his start! A scientific mind won’t fade as beauty does. The passing of time sharpens it and leads to greater boldness.
When the trip stretched across the prairie, I recalled the giddy feeling of getting my letter of selection informing me that I’d been chosen as the naturalist for the expedition. I craved the recognition that was withheld from women. If I stayed in Spookstad, my parents expected me to marry someone agreeable, my father’s bat-eared banker friend. That wasn’t happening, even though I had given my family false hope by sharing one dry kiss with him. After that, there was a wet kiss tasting of coffee with Lars the lumberjack at Lumberjack Days in the nearby town of Singapore. I’d spent just a moment in those strong arms and we whispered our names to each other before being spotted by my brother Todd, who pulled me away. For many months following he called me Swamper Sally, a swamper being a lumberjack who cuts branches off the felled trees. Having kissed two men, I had a reputation. I would be a scientist now and if I kissed at all, it would be with someone intelligent, bursting with vitality, a native, mysterious and deep. It would be kept secret from the town of Spookstad. Perhaps I wouldn’t go back at all to a place so small that family and Oudwijfs watched all. I’d be a man with status, a famous naturalist.
After a year of pursuing her graduate degree in chemistry at The University of Iowa, Catherine Haustein couldn’t get fiction writing out of her system. She was accepted into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and enrolled in the MFA program there without telling her chemistry adviser. Thus her career as a writer of scientist characters was launched.
Most of her life has centered around science and raising a family. She barely wrote a word of fiction when her kids were teenagers. Her scientific research focuses on analytical chemistry and biologically active chemicals in plants. She’s written a lab manual where the toxic chemicals in classic labs have been replaced with non-toxic ones. (Yes, she also hugs trees.) She hopes to release a series of novels with scientific women as protagonists. She’s a professor at Central College where she teaches chemistry and short story writing.