Fifty Favorites for 2017: Part Six

It’s another free week! I’ve got my reading list for the month, but before I share those books, I’ve got a brand-spankin’-new cover to show you! The Road to Escape will be the first in a multi-author series from Eskape Press. It’s about an Indiana attorney-turned-alpaca rancher whose struggles with his health (along with a new lady in his life) finally convince him to reconnect with his children. Kudos to Elaina Lee for another fabulous book cover! I’m hoping the book will release sometime next month.

TheRoadtoEscape 500x750


And now for my June reading picks. If you find one that looks interesting, click on the cover to read more on the book’s Amazon page.


Summer’s Fury by Katie Wyatt
Summer's FurySummer and Beau are the kind of characters I like to read about. She’s a strong woman – the difficulties of her past have made her even stronger. He’s strong both physically and emotionally, but instead of being intimidated by her strength he appreciates it. This is a very quick read, so we’re not able to see the development of their relationship. As others have noted, there were editing issues: run on sentences, misplaced modifiers, and changing tenses. Still, it’s not a bad read. It’s a very short story, so you can easily get through it in an afternoon.


Savage EchoesSavage Echoes by R. T. Wolfe
I read R. T. Wolfe’s Savage Deception about three years ago, and was quickly drawn into the gritty world of Detective Nikie Savage. This short prequel reminded me why I loved this character – she’s a tough lady, made that way because of her horrific past. Duncan is a delicious hero who’s the perfect match for her. Their skills and strengths mesh together to find a missing coed. I’m going to need to read more of this series! But not at night. This series is definitely for daytime reading when you’re faint-at-heart!


Ordinary MeOrdinary Me by June Sproat
I don’t usually read YA, but I won an autographed copy at an online event a few years ago and finally sat down to read it. I’m so glad I did! I could identify with Kate’s high school experience on some levels – having a younger sibling who outshines her, and being practically invisible to the Cool Kids, and forgetting to think when near a handsome guy. But things change quickly fir Kate when she makes a wrong turn in driver’s ed, and she’s suddenly elevated to being someone EVERYONE knows – including a dangerous stalker. The story kept me reading, wanting to find out how Kate would resolve things, and whether or not she’d return to her ordinary self.


Waltzing with the WallflowerWaltzing With the Wallflower by Rachel VanDyken and Leah Sanders
I’m a longtime fan of both Rachel VanDyken and Leah Sanders, and this little novella has been on my bookshelf for years. It’s been overlooked because I’ve been reading so many ebooks, but lately I’ve been trying to read the paperbacks I’ve collected. Now that I’ve finally read this story, I’m ready to jump into the next two in the series! Identical (almost) Ambrose and Anthony and their friend Colin make a delicious trio as they steal the hearts of all the debutantes in London. Ambrose receives a challenge from his twin to make the mousy little wallflower into the toast of the ton, and of course he can’t resist the challenge. I loved watching Cordelia come into her own.


PepperPepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage by Tanya Eby
Tanya is a former member of the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group. In addition to writing, she’s in great demand as a narrator for audiobooks! This is another paperback that has been been waiting patiently on my bookshelf for a long time. Tanya has a quirky sense of humor, and her books reflect that. Pepper Wellington is a flower child, and Amy (whose real name is Sausage) is her straight-laced daughter. I’m reminded of the TV show Family Ties in which the former hippie parents Michael and Elyse Keaton are the direct opposite of their buttoned down son Alex. Anyway, when Amy/Sausage plans a wedding to boring Peter, Pepper arrives to make things fun.


The Ghost of January by Mysti Parker
My upcoming release The Road to Escape will be the first in a multi-author series to be released by Eskape Press later this summer. My book is about the patriarch of a family, and Mysti wrote this lovely novella about the youngest daughter, January Cooper. Each of the siblings has a reason for leaving the Indiana alpaca farm, and I enjoyed reading about January’s path leading her back home. This journey takes her to Europe, where she suffers joy, tragedy, hopelessness, and finally, love. Mysti doesn’t have a cover for her book yet, but I’m hoping to be able to share the entire series in a future post!


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What? Wild West?

The question of the week is: If you were in the WILD WEST, what would your job be?

Me, in the Wild West.

The “What would you do if aliens landed” question was more likely an option for me to face than this.

I had enough trouble moving to Idaho in 1981.

To leave the eastern part of the U.S., where there were relative cities and go into unknown territory, where the Indians were rightfully trying to protect their lands and people, to be at the mercy of the weather, is not something I would be apt to do. (The storms we encountered in the move when passing through Nebraska were hard enough to face in a hotel!)

I have heard that women going across the plains would start to lose their minds in the vast sea of grass. The only way for them to regain their sanity was for whoever was taking them out to turn around and head back, even if they were near the end; the women knew they were going back and that is all they needed.
The only other way to get to The West would be on a boat and go all the way down and around South America, then up to California. Do you realize how far that is? (For Heaven’ sake, it’s so far south, there are penguins there!) You’d be again at the mercy of the elements, because you’d be under sail. Cape Horn is where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, and they don’t play together nicely! Rounding Cape Horn is not an easy feat.

IF we survived the trip, I’d probably get to San Francisco and stay there.
But we are talking about the Wild West, so…

I am sure everyone expects me to say that I’d be a cook. I’m not so sure.

Surely I would not be one on a cattle drive. Few women managed that. I have never been physically strong and the trail was hard. Think of being the only woman with that many men; it would not be terribly comfortable, if safe at all. Let’s face it, not every drifter they could get to go in such hardship and low pay is going to be an honorable gentleman! Many of the fellows went out west alone seeking their fortune…and never found it. Many went there to escape the trauma they suffered during the Civil War, many were looking for trouble or had already found it and were running from the law. Most TV westerns have given pretty sanitized ideas of who cowboys were and exactly who settled the West,( or those who actually slowed the settling process).

If there was a town, (and Heaven knows how I got there), maybe I could have cooked in a hotel or restaurant, but if we are talking Wild West, so they probably would not have the type of establishment in which I would be comfortable. Besides, cooking steaks or stew constantly would be a bore. Many veggies, herbs and spices would be next to, if not totally, impossible to obtain.

Push coming to shove, I, like other Foxes, could sew, I suppose. Patching shirts and jeans would also get to a person. There would be few people who would want or need quality work in the Wild West, which was the actual question. I guess I would have had to delve into more tailoring for the few who had money and style. Then my conscience might get to me; would I want to outfit the local land robber-baron? Successful hired guns? “Dance hall girls”? Those girls danced downstairs and upstairs, if you get my drift.

I shudder to think of how a person would have to have struggled physically and conscientiously in The Wild West.

(When I told The Husband this week’s topic, he laughed, but quickly told me that definitely NOT as a girl in a saloon in any capacity.)

I asked my granddaughters what a good job would be in the Wild West.  The Just-Turned-11-Year-Old said, “Merchant”; I had not thought of that. That would be a great job for the likes of me: reasonable security and constant shelter. Given time, I could sew or even cook/bake and sell. A store could really grow up with the town.

Her sister, The Almost-13-Year-Old said, “Bartender”. I said no, didn’t she realize the tough guys she’d have to fend off? So she chose ‘Piano Player in a Saloon”, to which her sister immediately admonished, “They’ll throw bottles at you!” Again, I had to tell her no, not a good idea and had to explain that the girls in the bars were professionals. (She agreed to rethink her choices.)

Wild West? Great reads, great TV, great movies, but real life?
Not so much!

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Wild West Livelihood

This Job Would Be Right Down My Alley

By Jeff Salter

Asked by Tuesday Fox Joselyn Vaughn what our livelihood would have been if we’d lived in the old American West, I had to re-calibrate. I was raised on TV and Hollywood westerns, so naturally, I’d want a horse and a Colt .45. But I wouldn’t want the isolation and hardship of an actual “cowboy.” And enlisting in the U.S. Cavalry would be a no-go, because of terrible pay, lousy conditions, and constant danger.

I don’t figure I would’ve been lucky enough to have been born a Cartwright, so I doubt I’d reside in that sumptuous cabin on the Ponderosa. And I certainly would NOT fare well in a sod hut out on the desolate prairie.

So, I’d pretty much need to live in town. But not the strenuous stuff like blacksmithing or running a stable.

My town job would need to be indoors… in relative comfort, with conveniences like roof, walls, and floors — and a kitchen. I’d want a real bed and a place to wash up. I know there were few (if any) indoor toilets in those days, but I’d at least want my own private outhouse — couldn’t stand to use the “public” privy behind the saloon.

Sheriff and Gunfighter

My former first choice, sheriff, would be too much risk for too little pay — and poor prospects for longevity. Wouldn’t want to be a gunfighter anymore either – though that WAS a childhood fantasy – because they have even less income and shorter life expectancy.

Office Work

As I was considering this topic, I thought maybe I’d work in a bank or a claims office. Then I got to thinking I’d probably get stuck with a rotten boss who’d spend more time in the saloon pestering Miss Kitty than he’d be productive inside our office… but he’d make me work 12 hours a day by lantern light. I’d likely go blind before I went crazy.

Store Owner

Next I considered the general mercantile business. Pretty sweet deal owning the store where everybody bought their hardware, dry goods, and food staples. Then I realized I’d need (1) a lot of investment capital to purchase the store and acquire the inventory, (2) to ensure I had a reliable delivery channel for regular re-supply, and (3) enough flexibility in my overhead to absorb the losses from those hard-luck settlers who couldn’t pay a dime on their store tab. Hmmm.


Well that cogitation led me to the livelihood you’ve already guessed from the featured photo — I’d be the publisher and editor of the town newspaper! In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I worked in journalism – as editor or photo-journalist – full-time for over four years and part-time for perhaps another year… not counting part-time and un-paid experience with other papers elsewhere. I’m well suited for a job writing and reporting and editing.

But newspapering is hard work, so I’d need somebody to set the type and run the press… and I’d want a pretty office manager to handle book-keeping and advertising and messages. [Her name is Inga and she has a cute Scandinavian accent.] That would leave me free to report on territorial politics, local matters like crime and civic improvement, and loftier issues such as whether our corner of the newly civilized world ought to seek statehood. And I’d still get to ride a horse and shoot a revolver, because (after all), it’s the Wild West.

And I think I’d like to write a regular column concerning the comings and goings of people around town, plus my own observations and experiences and insights about other matters large and small.

You’ve possibly already guessed the name of my newspaper — Possum Trot Tribune.


What about you? What would your livelihood be if you were living in the old American West?

[JLS # 337]

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Wild Wild West

Wild, Wild West

I used to day dream about living in the old West. I blame it on books and movies. I fell in love with The Little House on the Prairie books when I was young. I recall having pulled them from my grandparents library on the farm that they bought me my very own box set for my 8 birthday. My other grandparents (on mom’s side) gifted me with The Little House on the Prairie Cookbook that same birthday. I loved making butter for the big family dinners around the holidays. Pair my love for that series with my dad’s enjoyment of western movies and I was convinced I had been born in the wrong time. The summer between fourth and fifth grade I found myself reading a 1300 page book about Sacajewea. I was even more convinced that I should have lived back when the West was being discovered.


I longed to live off the land, explore new places, and cultures. I hated dresses but thought I would enjoy the ones that were in fashion back then. There has always been a pull toward the West, even now I still have that desire.


What would I do? That’s a tough one. I enjoy sewing but I’m certainly not good enough to be a seamstress for all the bachelors who would be needin to purchase their clothes ready-made. I refuse to sing in public and can’t stand inebriated people so working in a saloon would be out of the question. I used to be a pretty decent shot back when I used to shoot with a gun, even better with my bow, and alright with throwing knives so maybe I could polish up and be good enough to join Wild Bill’s show.


I love horses and letters but women were not allowed to ride for the Pony Express so unless I could disguise myself as a man that would be out of the question. I really don’t like my hair short so I probably wouldn’t even attempt that.

However, I think I could combine it all and run a ranch. I could help defend our land if the need arose, I’d be able to be around animals, could hunt,  and farm. Days would start before the sun came up and end after it went down. It would be a hard life filled with challenges but rewarding and fulfilling. I could help tame my little bit of the Wild West by teaching my children if there was no school near by. They would still get an education, could go to college, then return to start their own lives. Before you know it the West would be won and I’d be rocking outside my house enjoying the sunset on Sunday evening.


Have you ever dreamed of living or even visiting the old West?

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Good thing I was born here.

If I were suddenly transported to the Old West and had to make a go of it, I would be in trouble. I’d probably end up being the first person they ate in a Donner Party situation. I’m terrible at cooking, gardening, and any unmodern type of housekeeping. After rereading Little House on the Prairie, I’m pretty sure I would have starved to death rather quickly. While I don’t oppose hunting, I couldn’t actually kill anything on my own. I’m not sure I could clean the carcass after someone else did either. Maybe if I had grown up in that time, it would be different.
I used to go fishing with my dad until he said I was old enough to bait my own hook and clean my own fish. I couldn’t stab the worm with the hook and I agonized about cleaning the one fish I caught for over an hour.  I ended up sticking it in the freezer whole to be thrown to the cats later.

If I had been sent out somewhere as a mail-order bride, I would probably be sent back on the first mail coach.

I can’t sing or dance, so being a saloon girl would be out of the question as well.

On top of that, I’m not sure what I would do without wi-fi. Haha!
Practically, the one skill I have that would be useful in the Old West is sewing. I could make and mend clothing, although having to do all the stitching by hand would be tedious (especially without Netflix to watch while I’m stitching.) However, there would be satisfaction in that the garments would be well-used.

If I could pretend that I could kill my own food, or at least reasonably scavenge for non-poisonous nuts and berries, I would like to be an explorer, documenting the wilderness and writing about it. Traveling through the national parks before they were tourist attractions would be pretty cool. Imagine being the first person to stumble upon Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon.

The simplicity of walking around and just enjoying nature would be a good change of pace. No frantic schedules and running here and there, just walking and wandering.

To actually make it work, I probably would need a team. Someone to help with gathering food and keep me from getting lost. And someone to rescue me after I was kidnapped by Sasquatches.
Would you be able to survive in the Old West?
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Taming the Wild West

One of our foxes asked, “What would your livelihood have been if you lived in the Old West?”

Assuming that the 19th century me is like my present day self, my thought is that I would probably do exactly what I’ve done so far: teach and write.

Woman Wearing a Bonnet - Free Pictures at Historical Stock

Photo: Historical Stock Photos

Since my ancestors were on the opposite side of the world while the pioneers tamed the American West, it’s difficult to imagine me in a hoop skirt and bonnet, but I’ll try. Assuming that I had similar interests, I imagine I’d do the same as I’ve done most of my life: teach children. Yup, I’d be your typical school marm. Well, maybe not so typical. While I try to follow the rules, I tend to think out of the box from time to time. I picture myself wearing the obligatory long sleeves and floor-length skirt, but wearing something totally unexpected underneath (no, I won’t go into details).


Joseph S Leavitt and family Lund White Pine County Nevada

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Of course, teachers back then were single. Married women were not hired as teachers. On the off-chance that despite my unorthodox ways I managed to snag the interest of a cowboy, rancher, or every day nice guy, I guess I’d become a housewife, but I can’t imagine I’d be a very good one. Keeping a clean and organized house, planning and preparing healthy meals out of things grown or bartered, and fending off wildlife are not things I’d relish or take on without a great deal of complaint. And pioneer families were large. I’m fortunate that the two young ladies who grew up in this house managed to make it to adulthood safely, because I was not the most observant of mothers, as my youngest pointed out to me in one conversation we had when she was about eight years old:

Daughter: Mom, you don’t listen to me.
Me: Yes, I do.
Daughter: I just described the giant pig with a bazooka, guarding the house. You said, “That’s nice.”
Me: Um, well, it would be nice to have someone guarding the house.

Rose Fritz - Free Pictures at Historical Stock

Photo: Historical Stock Photos

I didn’t start writing until after I’d retired from teaching, and I suppose given the demands on women, I’d have a difficult time getting through my “must do” list each day. There would never be enough time for the “want to do” list, unless I neglected some things and I had a very understanding husband – like the one I have now. I’m not sure I’d write the kind of stories I write now, because I wouldn’t be able to do the research on other places and time periods unless I had access to a huge library. But maybe I would write essays and poetry. Or maybe I’d write about the people and places around me.


Aside from teaching and writing, I suppose that my hobbies might also provide me with an income, provided I lived in or near a larger city. While most women did their own sewing and mending, women in elite social circles hired seamstresses, so that would be a possibility. And my musical training might also provide me with a decent living, either giving lessons or performing.

I guess my conclusion is that if I had been born a century and a half earlier, I would probably get along okay. The American West was rough, but for people with drive and determination, the opportunities were great.

What do you think your role in the Old West would be?

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Guest Author Scott Collins

Today my guest is author Scott Collins. Scott and I met on Facebook through mutual friends when he asked how we find books. He also hoped to find other avenues of exposure, so I gladly offered to have him visit with us here.


Author Scott Collins

Scott is a Southern California native, (my husband was born in Van Nuys), but has moved to Denver,(we lived there for about a dozen years). He has two sons; (I also have two sons). It always amazes me as to how I can find things in common with others as soon as I begin conversing.

Let’s see what else some of us might have in common with Scott.

Welcome, Scott!

You chose Denver as the place to raise your sons. Denver is a great place for families; so many outdoor spaces available, the theater, museums, activities, etc. What are some of your family’s favorites?

Just about all of it. I’ve long since discarded the need to collect things. I want experiences. I love the theater. We’re members at DCPA. [Denver Center for the Performing Arts] We frequent the Museum of Nature and Science and are also members at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I love to ride my bike, kayak, ski, and play ball with my boys. If it’s outside, chances are you can count me in.

What is a typical day for you?

Well, I still work full-time, so it’s up early to catch the train into Denver for work and then back home. I try to get some writing done while sitting on the train, but usually wind up reading instead. Once home, my kids keep me busy. Baseball, parkour, theater classes, etc keep me running them back and forth to their activities. Weekends are much of the same with some writing done either early before everyone else gets up, or late at night after the boys head to bed.

You started out with a novel for adults, but now write Middle Grade books, geared toward boys. I would think that many girls would also enjoy your series, but I applaud you. We have lamented the fact that more books seem to be geared toward girl readers than toward boys. Small wonder that many more boys lose interest in reading earlier than girls. I believe the gap is narrowing, with boys who read losing the ‘Nerd’ connotation, (indeed, “Nerd” itself is losing its negative overtone), but unfortunately, I see fewer older girls reading. Any thoughts?

Unfortunately, I think this has a lot to do with what’s popular at the time. When Twilight came out, I believe a lot of the teen female crowd was captured and engaged. Hunger Games was another with a strong female protagonist that attracted readers. I haven’t really seen or heard of another series, or book for that matter, that has drawn a following among young female readers since. I hope that I can cross over between the sexes and that Scepter will be a story that can be enjoyed by both sexes.

You started writing your books with your sons in mind; do you foresee your works growing in maturity levels (YA) as your sons also grow? What can we expect to see next from you?

Scepter will continue to mature along with my boys. As I close in on the end of the series, the story will become darker as the children close in on their final battle with King Argyle. Once this series is done, I’ll be transitioning back into the action/thriller genre. I’ve a book already in mind that needs to be written, and I don’t want to hold off on it too long.

So far I have only read “Scepter”, the first book of the Scepter Trilogy. Did you envision it as a series from the beginning?

I did. Once I went through the story in my head I realized I would either have a 3000 page MG Fantasy book, or that I’d need to split it up to make it more manageable. The children are on a quest for four stones at the end of book one. It made sense to split that journey into four additional books.

Kids easily read books if they can identify with the protagonists, and can dream of having adventures or attributes that the characters possess. How did you decide on the powers that you gave to each of the heroes?

Funny enough, it was by watching my kids play when they were younger. They’d race around the house or yard, chasing each other, a ball, a dog, or nothing at all. Or they’d crawl around barking, meowing, growling, and snapping their teeth. Of all the wonderful fun times we had playing, the two that stood out were the two they wound up having in the story.

The world you created is a mix of our world and another. The names of people and places are a meld of the common and uncommon. How did you arrive at your choices?

Ha! Good question. I’ve asked for input on my Facebook page for some, others are translations from a variety of languages that have very specific meanings or are symbolic, and a few are just random names that popped into my head that I thought had the right feel to it.


You also combine herbs associated with illnesses in our world with those in the world of the Scepter. What was your inspiration for this?

Well, it’s a fantasy world as you mentioned, with a bit of a blend into our world. I didn’t feel that having a Walgreens out in the middle of the prairie would keep my readers in the story, so how to treat illnesses? As it happened, I picked up a great book on herbal medicines at about the time I started writing Scepter, so it seemed a simple fix for the problem.

In the story’s world there are supernatural inhabitants common in human lore. Why did you add these particular creatures?

I love the supernatural and fantasy. I grew up reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and J.R.R. Tolkien among others. I picked my favorites to integrate into Scepter, where it made sense. Obviously I could add them all, and only some would fit into the plot line, so I had to make some tough choices. I’m happy with the results and hope my readers are as well. (And don’t you know that you must never eat food offered by fairies?!) Wait, what?!! Why? (You will be stuck in their realm forever.Just sayin’!)

Being the resident “Foodie” here, I had a laugh-out-loud moment when the centaurs served haggis and jugged rabbit! I have to ask you to explain these choices.

I was looking for something a bit more exotic than lemon peppered chicken with a side of broccoli. I remembered going to the Highland Games near my home a few years ago and having haggis. Repulsive stuff and not any better with the “Scottish Gravy” they added to it after my first bite. It got me thinking and searching the internet for another interesting dish to be served alongside it. Jugged hare was the result. I’m equally repulsed by the thought of it, though it may be absolutely delicious. In my experience, it’s better to try it and then ask what it is rather than finding out first and then having a preconceived notion of whether or not it’s gross.

Thank you so much for being with us, Scott! How can our readers find out more about your work?

Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions, as it was a trip down memory lane, reliving what got this story going in the first place. I hope everyone enjoys reading the series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. It’s a wonderful experience to escape into my own universe and pour my dreams out onto a page, and even better when someone takes the time to tell me thank you, that they enjoyed reading it. Happy Reading, all!!!

Thanks, Scott! See you on Facebook!


Posted in author interview, authors, careers, childhood, Family, Guest, Guest author, imagination, interview, Life, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments