Friday, 11 November 2011

Today We Remember

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Under A Texas Star

I'd like to welcome Alison Bruce, author of Under A Texas Star. Tell us a bit about your book and why you wrote it.

Disguised as a boy, Marly joins a handsome Texas Ranger in the hunt for a con man and they must bring the fugitive to justice before giving up the masquerade and giving in to their passion. Inspired in equal parts by Louis L'Amour and Georgette Heyer, Under A Texas Star is a western mystery/romance, with a touch of humour and loads of adventure.

Why does a Canadian city girl write a western set in Texas?
I get asked that a lot. The answer is simple: Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. My father introduced me to these authors just as my mother introduced me to Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Sayers. I grew up wanting to meet Chic Bowdrie, Texas Ranger. I wanted to shoot a Colt Peacemaker. And I wanted to learn to ride.

Friends of the family had ponies and I was led about on those a few times as a child. When I was out west, I rode bareback on a horse that was ready to be put out to pasture. That’s when I got my first clue that horses and I needed to keep our distance. My right eye ballooned, encapsulating my contact lens. Funnily enough, the owners wouldn’t let me near their horses a second time. Stubborn, I tried again when I was at university. I paid a discount rate for an introductory lesson.

I’m short and plump. Horses are big and tall. I had the devil of a job getting up into the saddle. When I finally got enough momentum to heft myself up, I kept going and fell off the other side. They didn’t have a block, so they got a folding chair for me to stand on. Once I was on the horse, I did pretty well. I started having images of riding the trail as I walked and cantered around the arena. Then the lesson ended.

“As easy as falling off a horse” has an entirely different meaning to me. When it was time to dismounted I slipped off the saddle and kept going down until I was flat on my ass on the sawdust.

The worst problem? Being in an enclosed ring with horses triggered an asthma attack that almost put me in hospital. It didn’t really hit me until I was out in the cold air. Then it was iffy whether my roommate would drive me home or to the hospital.
All grist for the mill.

Marly Landers Learns to Ride

The gelding was a short, sturdy gray mustang with a definite mulish look to him. The owner fit a similar description. He was asking forty dollars. Jase talked him down to twenty-five, then spent another twenty-five on a saddle, bridle and saddlebags. The tack he bought used from the livery owner. With a little dickering, Jase managed to get him to throw in a saddle blanket.
Throughout this procedure, the boy stood out of the way, in awed silence. His expression was one of near panic.
"Stop gaping and saddle his horse," Jase ordered.
"S-sir, I c-can't―"
"Sure you can. You seem to have made stable work a parttime career. Next to clearing tables, that is."
He looked down at Landers and could almost see the mental calculations the boy was making. Fifty dollars was a lot of money. A month's pay for a Ranger. Mucking stables, the boy might make that in four.
"Don't fret it," Jase added. "You take care of that horse and I'll get my money back for it in El Paso. Now hoof it!"
Within an hour of trying to teach Landers how to ride, he started to wonder if he shouldn't trade the saddle tack in on a buckboard.
It wasn't that the boy was slow-witted. Far from it. All things considered, Landers learned fast.
Blame, Jase had to admit, lay partly at his own door. To him, riding was as natural as walking. He took most of what he knew for granted. That didn't make him an ideal teacher. Nor did it help that they were drawing an audience. The livery owner had cleared a corral for them. Bit by bit, the fence started filling up with folks who had nothing better to do on a sultry Friday morning.
Most just watched for a time and moved on. Some cheered, while others taunted the boy. The worst ones shouted wellmeaning but contradictory words of advice.
Then there was the horse. The beast didn't just look mulish. He had a temperament to match. With more intelligence and malice than Jase had ever thought a horse could possess, this one did his best to make things even more difficult for the boy.
Jase was losing his patience.
When Landers tried to pull the horse to a stop, the animal bucked hard and the boy was thrown over his head.
Jase jumped between the gray and the boy. "You!" He pointed at one of the cowboys. "Get the horse!"
Two men jumped off the fence. One took Jase's position as block. The other grabbed the reins and let the beast know who was boss.
Jase went to help the boy.
"I'm okay," Landers said in a shaky voice.
He waved off Jase's help, stood and brushed the dirt from his trousers. With a stubborn gleam in his eye, he marched up to the now calm horse. Grasping the bridle, he pulled the gray's head down to look him in the eye. "I've had enough. Your name is Trouble, 'cause that's all I've had from you. From now on, you better behave or I will personally slice you into horse steaks."
Fascinated, Jase and the cowboys watched Landers. Still glaring, the boy took the reins and walked around to the right side. As though hypnotized, the horse maintained eye contact until he had reached the limits of his neck's ability to twist. Then Landers shortened the reins and with only a little awkwardness, mounted. The boy turned Trouble and walked around the corral's edge. Cautiously, he changed the pace to a trot.
"That's an old Injun trick," one of the cowboys said.
"What?" the other asked. "Mounting on the wrong side or threatening to make dinner out his horse?"
"Both," Jase interrupted. "Show's over."
The cowboy nudged his friend. "Come on, you can buy me a beer."

Under A Texas Star is available in trade paperback and eBook.

Alison Bruce can be found at and