Author Notes

January, yes. Start over? No. Waiting? Always. Hopeful wishes for 2022? Of course.

I am still creating draft #2 of my historical novel, Countess of Change (working title, I might use it). Currently at 29,500 words, draft #1 is approximately 60,000. I have noticed that my characters demand more: description, action, and creatively inserted backstory. Good Grief. I thought I was the boss.

I set a goal every morning of at least 500 words and sometimes, I pleasantly surprise myself with more.

My revised Gray Lace novel should return from her editor soon. Checking email twice a day. Hence the dreaded waiting. Once here, I’ll need to make major decisions. Mainly, will I accept all, some, or none of the expected changes. Pun intended. My Countess in the aforementioned work will be chuckling. You might as well.

When next we communicate, I plan to restart my Gray Lace installments. Part 31? Where Catherine is headed to her Charleston riding in a freight car with friends Joann, Ross, Lord Trevor Coffman, and new arrival, Jacob Newsome.

A final word about hopeful wishes … agents. I hope to begin what I’ve read is an arduous task of query writing.

Egad and Enough!

Gray Lace, Part 30

Trevor, Catherine, Joann, and Ross managed to “jump a train” from their lumber camp and Killer Chicken to Charleston. However, they are not alone in their freight car.

As the train rattled over the rails, Trevor struggled to sit up and surveyed his newest surroundings. Besides the Garretts, the lovely Catherine, and large pieces of logging equipment and supplies, there was the particular odor of human occupation. He found the source from the accompanying groan.

“What in God’s name is this, a convention?” An untidy speckled beard grinned up through several layers of heavy wool, “First Class full?”

The man sat up and swiveled around to face them, “Please allow me to introduce myself. I am known as Jacob Newsome, recently of Richmond, Virginia. Although, I did enjoy a bit of a stay in Plainville, North Carolina,” he bowed his head to the group. “Now, Ladies, due to a lack of proper circumstances, I need to direct your attention away from the door while I attend to nature.”

Joann and Catherine turned around and pretended to study a box of supplies, although laughter could be heard. Newsome continued his introduction while he relieved himself through the open door. “Gentlemen, I’ll share histories, ancestries, and maybe food. I hope you’ll do the same. I’m the unfortunate second son of nobody with a questionable background, but I have acquired some means of livelihood through diversifying my economies, and oh, I’m wanted by the law.” He finished his task, restored his clothing, and turned when the ladies did.

Ross stared at him, but he sat down on a locked metal box without pointing his gun. Trevor maintained his friendly grin and braced himself against a large piece of equipment which reminded him of huge dinner tongs. Catherine came to his side, entwined her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. Joann sat on the floor with her back to her husband’s knees. Trevor protectively hugged Catherine and thought this character would prove interesting and he prayed he would be helpful.

Most prayers are answered, just not our expectations.

Egad! and Enough! Until Later.

Gray Lace, Part 29

I have never jumped onto a moving train, or off one, for that matter. I hope I never have to do so. I did jump out of the backdoor of a stationery school bus, while teaching a safety evacuation drill, subsequentially tearing my ACL, but I digress … In this episode our heroes run from a rough lumber company, its employees, and an angry killer chicken. Their escape route is a moving freight train. Their difficulties are imagined. Thank goodness for fiction.

The sounds of a train’s approach on the nearby tracks signaled an opportunity of escape. The train slowed but didn’t come to a complete stop, men throwing out bags of food and mail.

“Follow my lead, but don’t stop running forward,” ordered Ross. “Trevor, hold onto Catherine and don’t let go!”

“As if,” he whispered between heaving breaths. He had her hand and tried to throw an encouraging smile her way, but she focused on the slowly moving train. There were two open-door cars and the rest were log carrying open flat beds.

Ross threw Joann through the open door of the second car and hustled a forward-flip himself onto the floor, turned and held a hand out to Trevor.

The gun got handed in first then Trevor lifted Catherine into his arms, and threw her. She landed on top of Joann, turned and fearfully screamed, “Come on, Trevor, hurry!”

As the back end of the car passed, Trevor reached for a guardrail and jumped. His hands were sweaty and he slipped an inch, but he still hung on. His arms strained against the forward motion and pain shot through his shoulders. He wanted to let go until he saw Catherine’s hair flying around her beautiful face as she held out her hand. He forced his left leg onto the same rail and heaved his body against the rattling and shaking metal.

He held on.

The train gathered speed and Trevor flattened his full body length against the rail and metal siding. He gritted his teeth, pressed his lips tight, and as the train rounded the curve, he used the momentum to swing toward her and their open door. Landing on the hard floor with a painful thud, he thankfully enjoyed her concern.

“God, Trevor, are you alright?” She patted him everywhere. He decided to play possum. “No broken bones, thank God.” Catherine gently turned him onto his back and he kept his eyes closed, but could not for the life of him, stop a foolish grin from spreading across his face. After a few more enjoyable pats, she must have noticed his mouth, because he absorbed the lovely realization of her kissing him. Her first kiss pillowed his lips too briefly then a few on his nose and forehead.

“Sit up, silly man” she whispered, “we have an audience.”

Gray Lace, Part 28

A bit more background concerning one of my favorite characters: Killer chicken.

He and his harem of five were introduced to me during a visit to a small farm. Once he took note of my husband, he attacked. He lowered his crown and jabbed at Rudy’s ankles and sent his wings to overdrive, sending my beloved running.

Our host yelled, “Get behind Eleanor!”

Really? Made no sense to me either.

Killer stopped at my feet and looked up at my face. He turned and his crown nodded as if he was indeed counting his ladies. Seemingly satisfied that all was well, he marched away, his ladies following. We were told this happens daily to the milkman. Yes, they had one of those, too.

Now, back to Catherine, Trevor, Joann, and Ross, battling a 1908 survival journey to Charleston, have come upon a lumber camp within the forests surrounding the swamps.

The late afternoon machinery noise and male voices slowed to a low growl, as the four travelers entered the center of the camp and stopped in front of the cooking tent. Trevor nearly gagged at the body odor wafting from the large man in the greasy apron in front of him. His meanness came from his body language as well as his eyes. His welcome left Trevor no doubt as to his political philosophies.

The cook waved his finger in Joann’s face, “What the hell is this darky bitch doing with my livestock?”

Trevor readied the long barrel of his gun securely on his hip. While he was sure of the cook’s vocabulary and intent, he also knew his gravely voice threatened all of them.

Ross took the hen from his now frozen wife and tried to hand it to the man. “Sorry, sir, we had no idea this was your property.”

The cook refused his offer.

Ross gently pushed Joann behind Trevor. “Just tell us when the train south will be here and we’ll leave you to your supper.”

The cook’s smile not only smelled, but he was missing a few of his teeth, and dark spots showed on the remainders. “Hey!” he announced to the dozen men within earshot, “These foreigners want to travel on our next luxury train south.”

Trevor backed up a few feet forcing the ladies to do the same. “Get ready to run,” he whispered. The mean laughter warned him and he wouldn’t allow them to be surrounded. He saw Ross reach behind and pull a knife from his back pocket and he glanced around for a possible way out.

His majesty, Killer Chicken, surprisingly appeared from behind the cook’s tent and he wanted his lady back.

Ross threw the hen into the cook’s face. “What the hell!” The man screamed in surprise and pain, turning around in circles as his friends began wailing in laughter. Killer brutally pecked at the man’s leg and flapped his wings to distraction. The hen continued to fly into the cook’s face as he tried to pull a knife from his belt.

Egad! and Enough! (more later)

This is one of my favorite characters, Killer Chicken. Yes, I really did experience this situation. Those of you who are city-dwellers may not believe this, but it’s true. Trevor wished it was not, until the next scene.

Morning brought gray fog and hunger. The fog gradually burned off and their hunger increased by the time they reached a clearing where man had convoluted the environment. A straight train track pointed the foursome in their intended southern direction. Sounds of civilization alerted them to prepare.

Ross pointed, “There, Joann, a clear pool of water. You and Catherine take a few minutes to clean up while Trevor stands guard. I’ll scout out the racket from down the track.” The women seemed eager to follow his directions and Trevor waited beside the tracks as he watched Ross disappear.

“Be careful, ladies. I understand your southern waters are crowded with wildlife. Call out if I am needed.” He hoped he would be welcomed by Catherine to enjoy a refreshing dip. However, with her chaperone, he’d better not, so he sat on the wooden railroad tie and waited.

Appreciating the female sounds of pleasure, he barely registered a vision approaching from the north. As the six creatures closed in, stomach rumbles confirmed that dinner might be imminent. Five hens led by a large regal rooster strutted forward. They stepped between the ties and displayed a cockiness that informed Trevor they had no fear of a pot of boiling water. Their attitude was briefly humorous.

At the same moment, Ross returned and the ladies walked up behind Trevor. He had turned around to enjoy the sight of a refreshed Catherine as she sauntered toward him wearing a delicious smile. The spell was broken when the rooster went into attack mode.

“Good God, man, watch out for Killer Chicken!” Ross bellowed. The red crown had lowered and the beak aimed for Trevor’s face, forcing him to stand and run. The rooster went after him and didn’t let up until Trevor took refuge behind Catherine and Joann, who thought the entire episode was hilarious entertainment.

Ross jumped into the old strategy of divide and conquer. He grabbed a hen.

Killer Chicken turned from Trevor, raced after Ross, but soon gave up. The rooster stopped, turned and gathered the remains of his harem. As he retreated into the forest, he urged his females into a faster gate, far from humans.

“My dear God, Ross,” Trevor announced, “Now, we’re even. That young and mighty fellow wasn’t giving up. His Majesty, Killer Chicken, could challenge last night’s bear.”

“Not quite, Trevor,” Catherine hugged him, “Last night’s bear would not have stopped at my skirts.”

“Killer Chicken was rather fond of us, wasn’t he, Catherine?” Joann took the hen from Ross and smoothed her feathers while tucking her under her arm. “Now, this young lady could be a tasty treat later.”

“Or perhaps a bribe,” Ross pointed down the southern tract. “Just about a half-mile ahead there’s a rough lumber camp. Maybe they could use an addition to their dinner in exchange for a free ride on the next train south.”

Catherine’s eyes widened, but Trevor also noticed a tad of fear in his favorite swampy greens.

“Approach them cautiously,” Ross warned. “These men haven’t seen a female of any sort for some time.” He handed Trevor his weapon that had fallen during Killer Chicken’s retreat. “Keep this handy and loaded. I wouldn’t go in there, but we need to get on that train and I can’t see us heading that far south without a ride.”

“Why not wait for it here, then?” Trevor glanced back north listened for an engine.

“My guess is, your lordship, you’ve never jumped onto a moving train.” Ross smiled as he shook his head and headed down the southern track. “Come on, everyone. We can do this, but keep your eyes open and your weapons ready.”

Egad and Enough (until next time)

Gray Lace, Part 26

Dear Readers,

I have lost a month, October. Life truly does get in the way of a writer’s world. Forgive me. Eleanor Tatum

Trevor’s usual doubts, needs, and questions fed the quick march south through the dimming light. What the hell was he doing? Bears? Natives? He needed to get back. He needed to get out. Go north. Go home. “My family! Dear God! The Boys!” He mumbled in frustration. He needed to go home even if his pockets were empty. His brothers would be turned out in just a few weeks. He needed to be there with them.

Stuck between that infamous rock and that hard place, that’s where he was. He pushed the underbrush with his weapon and shook his head. Laughing out loud at his precarious situation, Trevor swatted yet another branch. His future brother-in-law, a suspicious friend at best, might be trying to kill him, but why? Obviously to save his family’s money from jumping the pond. Here he was trying to help a pretty lady he knew nothing about and meanwhile he was getting eaten alive by small flying bugs, called ‘noseeums’.

He trekked forward toward the edge of the next clearing and stopped. He felt totally lost, unsure, confused, and although he would never admit to it; he hated the dark.

For the second time that evening, he felt Catherine’s hand on his arm. She tugged him forward. “Come on, you rather adorable lordship, this way.” It wasn’t his Birchmere Halls, but it was pine log lean-to shelter, at least on three sides. No four-poster beds, but he liked the arrangements.

“Guard the women. We’ll catch a rest here in the front.” Ross pointed to the back where Catherine and Joann settled on top of their coats and bags to protect themselves from the dirt floor and its possible small crawling guests. “Scrunch in, Lord Coffman, as close as you can get to them. I’ll take the first watch.”

“Sir, there’ll be no ‘lording’ around these fine accommodations.” The laughter helped each one to deal with smells of the previous guests, both human and not so much. “Please address me as Trevor, or in the morning you may call me Sir Smelly.” He pushed his hip as close to Catherine as he could and he wished he could see her face, but the moon forgot to stay. Her hand, however, wound around his upper arm and he hugged it close.

“Sleep well, Mrs. Garrett,” Ross whispered over them to Joann, who was now wedged into the angled roof and the ground. “I’ll catch a hug soon, my love. Maybe tomorrow we’ll find out the answers to your questions about our English hero, Sir Smelly.”

Egad! And Enough!

Gray Lace, Part 25

Concerning Chapter Five: our characters; Ross, Joann, Trevor, and Catherine, continue their journey from the swamps to the city of Charleston, 150 miles to the south. In my original Gray Lace, each chapter begins with a quote. This one is from Frank A. Clark, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably, doesn’t lead anywhere.”

The obstacles are many and my favorite is Killer Chicken. More about him later. For now, Trevor needs a moment to compose himself after killing a creature larger than any on Mr. Mercer’s lodge walls.

As they got to their feet, Trevor smirked, swallowed his self-pride, and asked, “Dinner?”

Catherine zipped her head around from the bear on the ground to him and showed a surprised and thankful expression.

He played the moment. “What? Oh, I’m guessing you don’t know how to skin a bear. That’s fine. Nor do I, but I sure could use a shot of whiskey. Anyone think to bring anyway?”

Ross marched past the women and over to Trevor, while pulling a thin dented flask from his vest pocket. “Have all you want, my good man. Thank you, sincerely. You saved me …us!”

Joann’s arms came from behind Ross and she hugged the stuffing out of him while she cried a song of thankfulness. After taking a healthy swig, Trevor returned the flask with a nod and walked around the affectionate couple. He reached for a frozen Catherine. He had rested his weapon on the ground and braced for her delightful onslaught.

She flew to him. “Trevor, oh my dear God, thank you!”

He wanted to hold on to her for as long as she would allow, but before anymore could be said or enjoyed, another shot barreled through the evening air. They faced the cabin in terror.

Ross held a shaking pistol over the bear’s head. “Sorry, but I had to be sure.” He faced Trevor and worshipped his newest hero. “Thank you, lad, you’re a crack shot. Hunted much?”

Trevor noted the thankfulness and embarrassment in his eyes as he walked toward the bear. “The truth, sir? No, actually I hate guns and admire ,” pausing as he bent to caress the furry head of the large beast at his feet, “most of God’s features.” He choked back a bucket of emotions.

“I’m mighty glad you helped out,” Ross turned to include the ladies as he advised, “Now, those shots might well have been heard as far back as the lodge. We best be going.”

“Wait. What about this magnificent creature?” Trevor hated the sound of his weakness and fear, but damn …then he felt Catherine’s hand on his arm and her gentle tug.

“Trevor, Ross is right. Those shots were heard by everyone within a few miles, including the natives. There’s a settlement not far from here and I assure you, nothing of this animal will waste or rot. Come on now, move. We need to hide and find shelter. The sun’s gone and my Charleston friends might soon be upon us.”

Catherine waited until he stood, then she lifted their bags and headed after the Garretts. They were swallowed by the dusky light and thick swamp underbrush. Trevor retrieved their guns and after giving a respectful nod to the magnificent creature, he followed her.

Egad! & Enough! until next time.

Gray Lace, Part 24

Joann leads the others on the unmarked trail through the swamps, keeping the sun behind her or over her right shoulder. Between them and Charleston lay miles of wild vegetation and wilder life; both man and animal.

Joann stopped and silently told them to remain quiet and still. A nearby conversation filtered through the thick hedges and untamed shrubbery.

“Enough boys, I’ve had it already. I’m taking the civilized route and heading back to Plainville for a train to Charleston. Good luck and keep up with them, especially that Earl of Problems. I want him and I’ve paid you for him. I’ll meet you in three days time, noon, on Trent Street at the Cotton Exchange. Good hunting.”

“We don’t take orders from you.”

“You do now. You boys look smart enough to please two bosses.” The pause triggered Catherine’s concern into fear. “Now, get moving. You don’t want to squander this double opportunity.”

Trevor shook his head at the overheard words. Catherine envisioned Edgar Crandfield’s snobby swagger toward the western turn in the road. Her deepening sympathy and her growing empathy had her arm going around Trevor’s waist. Together they waited silently. Hearing the dimming grumbles and complaints from the Charleston Three, Catherine, Trevor, Ross, and Joann waited a few extra minutes, trusting no one to not turn back and then they continued south on their wilderness journey.

Thankful that the sun was their only escort, they checked on her occasionally as she made her westerly descent. The hour before sunset, bread and cheese disappeared along with cold stream water in two shared tins. Catherine thought it was the best meal she had had in quite some time, because of the company.

Releasing exhausted sighs, they sat observing their hotel for the night. It had once been a sturdier structure, but it would serve. “Thank goodness, it’s empty,” Joann commented as she packed up their few leftovers.

“I’m not so sure. Listen,” Ross silently reached for his gun. He pointed to his knife stuck between his boot and sock. Trevor acknowledged the message with a nod. Rumblings and animals grunts came out of the shack as a territorial warning.

Crouching, Ross whispered one word, “Bear”. He signaled for Joann and Catherine to backup and hide, and for Trevor to stay behind him.

Catherine grabbed Joann’s shaking hand. They followed orders, a little bit. Trevor glared at them, but said nothing. The three watched Ross approach the one door. A Carolina black bear, who had shattered any growth charts, decided to protect his formal quarters. He lumbered out at a faster rate than Catherine thought possible and the giant bellowed his opinions of humans.

Catherine dropped her jaw in fear as the bear ran right at them. The giant’s sides rolled in waves as his dark brown fur propelled his mass forward. She admired in fright at his sharp teeth dripping in slobber and marveled at the strength of the bear’s sustained doleful cry. Ross was up on one knee, pointing his weapon and looked to be ready, until his gun jammed, but the mighty hulk fell anyway. At the same moment in fear and time, an unexpected and tremendously close gunshot explosion jolted the insides out of everyone.

Ross came off his knee to a careful stand, but had his knife pulled in case Trevor’s shot hadn’t completed the job. He stared down in the same shock felt by all and listened as the eerie silence of the death of one of God’s magnificent creatures permeated the swampy forest.

Enough! Until next time

Gray Lace, Part 23

Egad! Now that part 22 has confused you, let’s return to Catherine’s and Trevor’s present time, 1908, swamps of the eastern Carolinas. How will she introduce him to her saviors, the Garretts? Will the swamps help or hinder their plans of escape and safety?

Clanging pots and friendly voices urged them on. The morning light had found them in the lodge and they made use of the crisp but foggy air to approach the kitchen unseen. Catherine checked around the tent flap for Mercer, his men, or heaven forbid, any of the Charleston Four. Of course, she reminded herself, there were only three left. Yesterday’s fright flashed and she was thankful for the outcome.

She saw no one in their kitchen except her beloved friend, Joann. From close behind her newest friend asked, “All clear?”


His hand on her back gently pushed her forward.

“Catherine, oh my, who do we have here, and you’re a mess, child. Look at your hems. Joann brushed off the now dried dirt from Catherine’s muddy bluff adventure, giving herself to think. Her hands landed on her hips and her eyes rested on Catherine’s face. “Dear Heavenly Father, what is it?” Joann gathered the younger woman in her arms, “Where have you been? I heard shots early last evening. Has something happened to you? No, don’t tell me you were found. Did they hurt you?”

Catherine’s worry increased when her friend focused on the man behind her.

Before she could introduce Trevor, make an explanation, or calm her friend, Ross snapped the canvass flap open. “Move quickly ladies,” he stopped and stared at Trevor. A severe stillness overcame him. “I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Mercer’s guests aren’t allowed in the kitchen,” he snapped, “Sir.” He bowed his head in a rapid nod.

“Mercer’s no friend of mine!” Trevor returned the nod and continued, “Please allow me to quickly introduce myself, because time is important. My name is Trevor Coffman, and Miss Randolph needs to leave. Perhaps we could all assist her,” He put his arm around her waist and that seemed to startle everyone.

“No time for explanations. We’re leaving.” Ross glared at Trevor then he looked down at the bag and guns. Studying Catherine’s, he told her, “The Charleston Boys are here and they’re asking questions.”

“Yes, we know,” Catherine bent to pick up her bag and rifle. They had learned to keep small traveling bags and weapons ready.

They used precious moments to wear off a bit of shock by looking around at the blessings they would be giving up; the job, the beauty of the lake just outside the tent, and the safety they thought they had.

Catherine stepped toward the tent opening and turned to face the three most important people since losing her home in Charleston, since her father had suddenly died, and her stepmother married a monster. “Thank you everyone, but this isn’t your problem.”

The three stared back.

She tried again, “I’ll go alone. They don’t want you. Send them north with false information and I’ll go west first. No, I’ll head to Wilmington, east, then to Charleston to keep them guessing. She was babbling and wasting time, but they’d get hurt or worse if they went along to protect her. There certainly weren’t any guarantees that she’d find a solutions to her problems even if they all made it to Charleston.

Ross began calmly, “Joann and I talked this over almost every night since we met you. You’re our daughter now, for as long as you need.” He hung a huge arm across her shoulders. “God sent you to us. Let us help you get home.”

The three took another valuable moment for a hug before dashing away a few tears and walked from the hunting camp’s portable kitchen. Trevor brought up the rear of the line and Catherine turned to give him one last chance to back out. But, he winked. “You need help.”

Enough! More later. hopefully.

Gray Lace, Part 22

Egad! Writing flashbacks for my characters is not easy. I want to tell you everything Catherine has been through before you met her, but alas, that would be boringly stupid and unnecessary to her story. So, here’s just a bit found on page 42-43. How she met the Garretts:

When Catherine had arrived on the Charleston train in Plainville, she walked along the platform with the other third class passengers. There weren’t many and fewer from the first class carriages. Good, she thought, a small town.

She saw them first. Four of them surveying the passengers. Turning quickly, she marched in the opposite direction and hid behind a cart piled high with luggage and crates. These four had been a nuisance since she escaped from Charleston, but she taken this train and it had switched engines in Dillon, South Carolina. They must have taken a later one.

“There, over there!”

Her long skirts wrapped her legs as she ran. Trying to hang on to carpetbag was the problem. She tripped and they had her surrounded. Her fear had sent sweat dripping into her eyes. She had glanced at her scraped and bloody hands and she felt her knees were in the same shape.

“Now, girly, quit this nonsense and come with us,” his grip on her upper right arm and been painful as he yanked her to her feet.

“Catherine Randolph, your parents want you back,” a hand grabbed her breast, but slowly shifted to her left arm. “Oh, excuse me, my lady,” his sarcasm flowed over her, “perhaps we can have some fun before we return you to your home and Mr. Pettigrew.”

“Shut up, Fred.”

A third man approached and slid his finger down her face. Without thinking, she bit it. The slap was violent and rapid, and it would have brought her to her knees if the first two hadn’t held onto her arms. A fourth voice interrupted. “Let’s get out of here. Fred, remember, our boss’s name is Smith.” He directed them toward a wagon hitched to two powerful mules.

The option of screaming had belatedly arrived in her foggy brain, but as it turned out, the timing was indeed advantageous. Her lungs and vocal cords announced to anyone who cared that she wanted no part of the wagon, those mules, or especially those four goons. A small crowd of concerned citizens surrounded her and her problems and they demanded answers. With a small amount of calculating, the four had started to drag her toward their wagon and they had tried to talk their way around the sudden vocal blockade.

The crowd had something to add to the debate. “Leave her be! She looks like she doesn’t want no part of you boys.” They convincingly raised they fists, clubs, and a few rifles.

Catherine took advantage of the sudden relaxed grip on her arms, scrambled through the group and returned for her dropped bag.

She had been followed by an angel. “This way, young lady, hide under this tarp, up here on this wagon.” The kindness behind the demand had Catherine scooting up and under. “Ross will be right back to help us get out of here as soon as he and the others get rid of your friends.”

Enough! Next time we’ll return to Catherine’s swampy haven and her rescuers.