adventure

Free For Christmas!

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Christmas is coming and WYOMING ESCAPE, my tale of danger and romance set on a Wyoming dude ranch, is free on kindleunlimited.

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Wyoming Cover - 5.3x8.

Mikela Richard’s morning run turns horrific when she stumbles upon a dead body and then is chased through the woods. The next day is even worse when she discovers a second body in her office and realizes a dirty cop is responsible. With a past experience that makes her distrust the police, she goes on the run until she can unravel the mystery of the strange computer thumb drive she found in her car.

 

She ends up working as a cook at a Wyoming dude ranch where she meets Shawn Saunders, a Marine home on medical leave. Shawn recognizes the type of fear in Mikela’s eyes—it’s one of the things he’s come home to forget. Even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he can’t stop himself from trying to help her, while she’s even more afraid to let him. 

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Here’s a short excerpt from when Mikela visits a new foal one evening:
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A few minutes later, the old wooden floorboards creaked beside her. “That’s the loosest I’ve seen you since you got here,” a soft, male voice spoke from the shadows.

 

To her surprise, Mikela wasn’t startled. Somehow she had known he was there. Not raising her head, she shifted, resting her cheek on her arms.

 

“Babies have a way of doing that,” she responded. “They sleep so sweetly, all your cares seem to melt away when you watch them.”

 

She straightened as Shawn came to stand beside her. “Watching over your family?”

 

“Something like that. Enjoying the quiet and getting back into the rhythm of things. It takes some time to adjust to normal life after I return. The horses help a lot.” He leaned down and rested his arms on the top of the stall door, a soft expression on his face as he watched the pair sleep.

 

“How long do you have?”

 

“Eleven more days.”

 

“Then back to Afghanistan?”

 

“Unfortunately, yes.” He shifted, still keeping his gaze on the sleeping foal. “Let’s talk about something else.”

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … remind you of unpleasant things.” She automatically put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.

 

He placed a big paw on top of hers. “No problem.”

 

They stood joined for a long moment. Then Mikela gently pulled away. His touch set her pulse racing, made her want what she shouldn’t. She couldn’t afford to give in to the attraction tugging at her. He was so different from the men she usually encountered. Certainly poles apart from the one she’d married. She shook her head. Let’s not go down that path tonight.

 

Mikela knew she should leave, but her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She remained beside him, absorbing the peace and calm of the horses and his quiet solidity. When she put her hand back on the stall door, he reached over and covered it again. This time she let it stay, accepted the connection. Suddenly she felt herself aching to be held, to be enveloped in strong arms, to feel protected. The horror of the last two weeks suddenly pushed its way to the surface. Tears welled and began to stream down her face.

 

At the sound of her sob, Shawn spun around and reached for her. “What’s wrong, Mike?”

 

The soft concern in his voice released the damned up flood. She shook her head and started to turn away, but the next thing she knew she was pressed against his warm, hard chest as he rocked and murmured to her.

 

“It’s okay. Whatever the problem, it’ll be all right.”

 

When she tried to pull away, he kept her close and ran his hand up and down her back, soothing and gentling her. The comfort he offered was too enticing. She collapsed against him and let herself go. Several minutes passed before her sobs quieted. She took a shaky breath and became aware of his musky scent and the dampness beneath her face. His shirt was wet from her bawling. Embarrassed, she stiffened and tried to step away. But he didn’t release her.

 

“Sure you’re done? Sounds like you burst a water main. Might be more coming.” He pressed her head to his chest. “You’re fine where you are. Get it all out.”

 

Mikela relaxed against him. She’d already made a fool of herself—staying in his arms a little longer couldn’t make it any worse. When her breathing had returned to normal and her face was dry, she raised her head and drew back. This time he let her go.

 

“All better now?” he asked. “Want to talk about it?”

 

“Better, yes. Talk, no.” She wasn’t up to coherent speech yet. She knew she’d have to give some explanation, but certainly not the real one. “Sorry.”

 

“What’s to be sorry about? We all need to let go once in a while. It clears the air. I’ve seen things I’d like to cry about too.”

 

She tilted her head to see him more clearly. “I thought it was okay for guys to cry now.”

 

“Civilians, maybe. Marines, no way. Not in public anyway.”

 

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I hope you enjoyed this piece and want to read more. WYOMING ESCAPE is available for the Kindle on Amazon.
Categories: adventure, animals, Books, Christmas, Cowboys, Dude ranches, fear, Horses, Mystery, romance, suspense, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Riding an Earthquake

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buildingTwenty-five years ago on October 17, 1989, my daughter and I were out riding our horses when the great Loma Prieta earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the most destructive quakes in California history, it knocked down part of a freeway, collapsed a section of the Bay Bridge, destroyed numerous houses and killed 69 people while we never FELT a thing.

It was a lovely fall afternoon as we saddled our horses and prepared to go for a ride. The ranch where we kept them was in a rural area south of San Jose and, it turned out, not far from the quake epicenter. They say animals frequently act peculiarly before a quake but ours seemed fine. However, as we left the property I glanced back and was astounded to see a horse rear up, go over backward and actually fall over his paddock fence. Several people rushed to get him, so we continued on our way scratching our heads aridingt the bizarre incident. Something really scary had to have happened to make a horse do that.

A few minutes later we were riding through a small valley and approaching an old orchard. My daughter was in the lead. Suddenly the abandoned school/farm worker bus ahead of us started shaking. My immediate thought was that was a dangerous place for kids to be playing. Then a giant roar of wind swept through the orchard and over us and both horses spun for home. I held my jittering mare in place while my daughter’s horse tried to climb on top of us. The hills around us seemed to move up and down in slow waves, then roar of wind swept over again from the opposite direction. Quiet returned except for an air raid siren wailing in the distance.

We had no idea what had just happened. I’ve lived most of my life in California but I had never been outside when a quake hit before, so I didn’t know what it was like. We had quakes all the time and they were no big deal. The siren made me wonder if one of the test rockets at the nearby UTC facility had blown up. The horses calmed down, so we continued on our way. A few minutes later the trail went behind some houses and we found a woman in her backyard having hysterics. That’s when we discovered it was an earthquake not an explosion, so we turned back.

crushed carWhen we got back to the stable people were huddled around a car, listening to the radio describe all the destruction, while the ranch was untouched. We put away the horses and hurried home, keeping our fingers crossed. Earthquakes send out waves of energy. When they come close to the surface they do the most damage. Our house appeared to have been passed by the deep part of the wave and while it was shaken there was little damage. You could see the direction of the energy by the way the water had gushed over the long ends of our pool and direction the living room étagère had tilted. Luckily the piano had caught the shelves and nothing had broken. Our only casualty was a figurine that had fallen in my daughter’s bedroom.

We spent that night glued to the TV and radio while the Bay Area tried to sort itself out. San Francisco, unfortunately, got caught by the upper part of the wave and was hit hard. It’s a bizarre experience to listen to all the turmoil going on in an area less than an hour away while your life is going on as normal. It was even more bizarre to have watched the hills dance.

How about you? Have you had experience with disasters?

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Building photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kkvzq8v

Horses photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kjcgxl2

Crushed car photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/mynfnbr

Categories: adventure, destruction, earthquakes, Horses, Loma Prieta earthquake, riding, San Francisco, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Cathy Perkins

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Cathy Perkins.

My guest this week is the award-winning author Cathy Perkins. Using her background in the financial industry, she writes predominately financial-based mysteries, while also exploring her characters’ relationships. Her most recent book, CYPHER, released this month and is currently on sale for .99 on Amazon.

When not writing, Cathy can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. A native of South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

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So Cathy, if you were an animal, what kind would you be?

Oh, I’d definitely want to be one of our dogs.  We aren’t sure if our dogs are part of the family or if we’re part of their pack, but the result is the same—one big happy unit. The Lab and the Puppy hang out in my office during the day, snoozing on giant beds, gnawing on marrow-packed bones, and placing their heads on my thigh to claim pats and back scratches. (If ignored because I’m paying too much attention to that small box, aka the computer, they’ll lift my hand off the keyboard with their nose.) On weekends, we’re all in the mountains at our place on the river, which our kids and their friends—along with all the family animals—have dubbed Best Dog Park Ever.

Can I join your pack. Sounds wonderful.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Ice cream is my weakness, with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie way up there in the deliciousness register. I will venture out of the strictly chocolate category for Cherry Garcia.

I knew we were kindred spirits. Cherry Garcia is my downfall too.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My favorite room is actually the main room of our small weekend place in the mountains. The cabin has wonderful views of the river and surrounding mountains. It’s cozy with a fireplace for the winter and windows all around to let in delightful breezes and the sound of the river and songbirds the rest of the year. Heavenly! It’s compact, but filled with carefully chosen furnishings. We really hate leaving on Monday mornings.

Sounds delightful. Can I visit?

How do you develop your stories?

Most of my stories start with a “what if?” Without giving away the plot and all the twists, my most recent release, CYPHER, starts with, What if a hitman killed the wrong person?

The “whys” line up from there—why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grow and become three-dimensional as I think through the implications and how that character will react to events unfolding around him or her. In CYPHER, both Cara and David have to fight for what they really want, and each has to trust the other, something that doesn’t come easily for them.

Because I love tightly plotted stories that twist and turn, I generally outline the major story lines. I’m always surprised when I finish the first draft and find small setups and details that my subconscious added. During edits, I weave these bits into the story to build out a suspect or enhance a theme.

Can’t wait to read it.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a lighter story right now, set in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state instead of South Carolina (where my other stories are set). The starting point for my WIP occurred while cutting up with a friend. We riffed off the opening—there’s a body in the beaver pond. Oh, dam(n).

Oh my, watch out for those beaver ponds!

What types of books do you like to read?

I’m a voracious reader. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense are my ‘go-to’ stories, but I also enjoy literary, fantasy… I’ve been on a women’s fiction binge lately. So many of those stories delve deeply into relationships.

My stories are predominately mystery/suspense, but I tend to make them more character-driven than strictly action-oriented. I enjoy the way the characters’ internal conflicts play into the external plot, raising the tension and the stakes when it’s personal.

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Cypher

Cara Wainwright thinks life can’t get tougher when her mother’s cancer becomes terminal—until she returns home from the hospital and finds a courtyard full of police officers and her houseguests dead.

Greenville, SC Detective David Morris, is unsure if Cara is the suspect or the intended murder victim. Searching for insight into her family, their mounting secrets, and the conflicting evidence from multiple crimes, his attraction to Cara complicates his investigation. Is the lure need, manipulation—or real?

While David pursues forensic evidence, Cara pushes for answers about her father’s possible involvement, for at the center of the mystery stands Cypher—the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.

When the assassin strikes at the heart of the family, Cara and David have to trust each other and work together to stop the killer before he eliminates the entire Wainwright dynasty.

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“This took place in your home. Is someone trying to hurt you?”

She met his eyes. “I don’t know.”

He waited for more.

Her hands rose and fell in a frustrated gesture. “Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that a thousand times? Ever since it happened, I’ve asked why? Was it random? Were they after me? One of them?” A flush climbed her cheeks, but her eyes didn’t waver. “Natalie looks a lot like me. She was in my bed.”

She stopped, her lips pressed tightly together. He was intently aware of her—how she held her head, her hands. The way she stood and sat. He didn’t want to be aware of her on that level, knew it couldn’t go anywhere. He also recognized the sensation wasn’t going to go away.

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Your can get CYPHER at the following sites:

Amazon               http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MMLX1ZQ
B&N                    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cypher-cathy-perkins/1120110911
Kobo                    http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cypher-1

You can contact Cathy at:

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyPerkins
Twitter                 @cperkinswrites
website              http://cperkinswrites.com
Goodreads         http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5367341.Cathy_Perkins
G+                     https://plus.google.com/u/0/+CathyPerkins/

Categories: adventure, animals, Books, dogs, Mystery, nature, outdoors, romance, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Mongolian Adventure

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My guest today is Paula Boer from New South Wales, Australia. My first visitor from Down Under!

Paula at homePaula started her lifelong love of horses at age 7 when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada. Two years later in England, she started weekly riding lessons and became hooked. She competed in many horse disciplines, caught and broke in brumbies, and mustered on remote cattle stations in Australia. Her Brumbies children’s series is based on her own experiences with wild horses. Set in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, the first of the series, Brumbies, became an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012. Her most recent book Brumbies In The Outback has just been released.

But today, instead of talking about those experiences, she’s going to tell us about a fascinating adventure among the horse people of Mongolia. Take it away Paula.

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Turning forty is a major milestone. Wanting to escape the possibilities of surprise parties or reminders of creeping age, I jokingly said to my husband I wanted to go to Outer Mongolia. It wasn’t only the remoteness that appealed to me, but the fact that the country has more horses than people. So we went.

Mongolia 2Horses canter around us across the open grasslands. Their hogged manes and lean hides accentuate their movements, muscles taut and necks stretched low. Riders of all sizes wave their arms, flap their legs and twitch the long ends of their reins to gain that extra effort from their mount.

The annual horse races in Mongolia are a splash of colour against a backdrop of rolling green hills. Clothes and tack are made from assorted materials knotted together or tied with rawhide. Our guide tells us that many competitors have ridden for hours to come to this event. The horses will race more than once over a distance of forty kilometres before being ridden home again.

The horses respond instantly to every command – spinning, barging, galloping or sliding to a halt to gain advantage over the other competitors. Riders jostle amidst an equally raucous crowd cheering on their favourites and shouting advice. The race winds over hills, through rivers and down valleys, the riders knowing the route from experience. No specific tracks mark the way. Cheers and jeers announce the invisible finish line where horses are swamped to be cared for in preparation for the next race.

The day after the race I had my chance to ride these tough horses. Despite having competed the day before, the ponies felt keen as we mounted up. I cantered through flowers that grew as high as my horse’s nose. Suddenly there was much shouting. Turning to see what the commotion was, I was signalled to return. Believing the situation urgent, I galloped back to the anxious guides. I pulled up as they leapt from their horses. Grinning, they indicated my girth had come undone and was dragging on the ground!

That event resulted in a comradeship I hadn’t sensed before. We climbed through vast stands of conifers, the smell of pine needles rising from under the horses’ hooves. We crossed grasslands where the horses nibbled seed heads as they walked. Herds of horses dotted amongst the lush feed in every valley.

Mongolia 3We learned that everyone in Mongolia can ride. There are more horses than people. There are statues of horses, horses carved into musical instruments and furniture, even drawings of horses on their banknotes. Horses provide transport, entertainment, food, drink and income.

There are no fences. The herds roam freely, ownership identified by brands. Twice a day the mares come in to feed their foals tied to lines in rows. The mares are milked for human consumption before the foals are permitted to drink. Children nurture the foals that are to be theirs, creating a lifelong bond. I can’t think of a better way to live.

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Brumbies in the Outback

Brumbies Outback book 4Ben and Louise discover that life on a remote cattle station is very different to their Snowy Mountains home. Missing her horse, Honey, Louise struggles to adapt to the outback. Ben has a graver concern: he is desperate to prove that Brandy, his stallion, is fit after a serious leg injury, otherwise he may be destroyed. From mustering and working cattle, to tracking and taming desert brumbies, both friends are challenged by their experiences.

http://www.amazon.com/Brumbies-Outback-Paula-Boer-ebook/dp/B00KH07Y16
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/440143
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/brumbies-in-the-outback-paula-boer/1119582978?ean=2940045958257

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Excerpt:

As the sun rose higher, more and more cattle thronged in to the mob. Ben had forgotten how slow a muster started. There had been little for him to do with the experienced stockmen chasing back cattle that didn’t want to stop. Although he’d hoped to have a chance to chat to Jacinta, they needed to keep their separate posts. Looking across to where Louise sat on Splash, he thought she seemed relaxed in the shade. The pony appeared to be asleep; an old hand at this game, he knew he’d need his energy for later.

A shrill whistle alerted Ben. Graeme signaled for them to start walking the cattle out. He had explained earlier how he wanted everyone to work—Ben and Jacinta on the wings, the head stockman and one other in the lead, and Louise with the remainder of the riders on the tail. They planned to keep the cattle close together and move at the pace of the slowest calves.

Ben’s chestnut mare pranced as she closed with a large Brahman bull, his neck hump wobbling with each step. Pushing his horse into the bull’s shoulder, Ben guided the old male back towards the mob. He turned without complaint, lumbering his great bulk with plodding steps. Pleased how his horse responded to his leg aids, Ben patted her neck.

Settling in for a long walk, Ben rode automatically, watching the cattle for any that might try to stray. Every so often, another small group would come running in from the scrub to join the herd, chased from far away by the buzzing helicopter. The heat had returned to the day and dust clung to his sweaty skin. Ben took a long swig from his canteen, letting some of the cool water dribble down his chin. While trying to re-secure his water bottle, the chestnut mare shied.

“Whoa! Steady there!” Ben slipped sideways, almost coming off. Grabbing the mane, he hauled himself back into the saddle. Overhead, a kite flew low with a snake in its claws, the writhing body of its meal casting shadows over the horse. The reptile had been easy prey while slithering away from the thousands of hooves trampling the dust.

“So that’s what spooked you.” Ben shortened up his reins and sat deep, preventing the mare from bolting as she continued to panic. As he brought her back under control, the helicopter appeared from behind a small bluff with a roar.

Too much for the green horse, she snatched at the bit and broke into a gallop.

Categories: adventure, animals, Australia, Brumbies, Horses, Mongolia, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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