Like many authors, when I write I try to use as much reality as I can. There’s several reasons for this, one being that the reader can connect with the story faster when there are echos of reality woven in. Plus the attachment the reader has to the characters and the plot is stronger if it’s something they recognize. This is why I think research is so important, including the detail where the story takes place. In my latest novel, Guardian Angel, I do just that. The story takes place in Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, where every Labor Day, the small town of a few hundred swells with tens of thousand modern-day mountain men and women. This is a huge event at a place that was once a major stop along the Oregon Trail. But before I show you an excerpt that displays what I’m talking about, let me give you a blurb so you have an idea of the story and characters ~
Out now with Ellora’s Cave
Someone needed to protect herâ€¦
With her partner dead and his dangerous associates after her, fear made Marie runâ€”and drove her right into the arms of Jake Colder, the sheriff of the small town where she sought refuge. The sexual attraction between them is instant and intense, but even the taste of heated nights spent with Jakeâ€™s gorgeous hard body wrapped around her isnâ€™t enough to let Marie relax her guard. If Jake knew what sheâ€™d done, heâ€™d arrest her, exposing her to the deadly greed of the men who pursued. Still, as hard as she tries to stay away from the hunky sheriff, some inexplicable force keeps pulling them back together.
And that someone was Jake.
Jake knew Marie needed his protection. Heâ€™d been warned by the ghost of his great-great-grandfather, the family guardian for over a century. Whatever the trouble was, there was one thing he was sure ofâ€”he wanted Marie in his life, in his bed, forever, and no one was going to hurt her on his watch.
Ok, you have the set-up, and, by the way, Gramps is the ghost of Jake’s great, great grandfather and Jesse is Jake’s son. In this scene, Marie is meeting Gramps for the first time and she doesn’t know he’s a ghost. Now, listen to these words and see if they seem real to you.
She peered at the old fort, strangely beautiful in the moonlight. The place seemed to come closer. The realization hit her that she had meandered toward it. Marie looked around to see if anyone was about.
The low moan of the wind echoed in the trees. Its sound beckoned her. She sauntered onto the grounds of the sleeping structure. The muted sounds of the night surrounded her like a shroud.
The wind whistled briefly through the gatehouse. Her feet crunched against the gravel as she passed one of the old officersâ€™ barracks. Most of the fort had become open field, the few birch and pine trees left acted as lone sentinels to the now-deserted property. The moon shadowed the limestone buildings that remained. The white rock glowed in the pale light. She passed a sign that said â€œOld Infantry Barracksâ€. The marker showed where one of the quarters once stood. In her mind, she saw the worn log structure. Soldiers talked and laughed and a small group played cards on the porch front.
She strolled over one of the bridges that crisscrossed the small brook which flowed near the old parade ground. The creek ran the length of the green. She listened to the water gurgle in the channel.
In her mind, she imagined the daylight. A child in knee pants shouted to a friend by the water. The boy wanted to show them some glorious find by the creek bed. In her mind, the boy looked like Jesse. She smiled, thinking thatâ€™s exactly what that child would have done in an earlier age. She stopped and leaned on the railing to enjoy her fantasy and to take in the stark beauty of the place. The rivulet below her meandered and danced under the bright moon. In the distance, a few pinpoints of light flickered on the far distant highway.
The place had been a haven for the weary and downtrodden along the old Oregon Trail. Modern roads skirted the ruins now and had left the crumbled structures forgotten, but Marie could still sense the serenity and hope the place had given to others a little more than a century ago. She put her hands in her pockets and walked onâ€”and prayed for a similar kind of peace that could be found here again for just one more.
The scruff of military boots seemed to sound on the old commissary porch. Her head snapped up. From nowhere, warm yellow lamplights burned in the windows and a group of men leaned against the open porch railing. The apparitions smoked tobacco and discussed the growing restlessness of the neighboring Indians.
Marie squinted and looked closer. The wind gust tossed leaves and small twigs in her face. The bluster subsided. When she looked again, she breathed a little easier. Only the pale moonlight gleamed against the log and stone, sending shadows into its deeper recesses. She shook her head and walked on. I must be more tired than I thought.
â€œSo yuh gonna do somethinâ€™ about yur problem or sit there and take it on the chin?â€
â€œWhat?â€ Startled, Marie glanced at the old store. A small squall blew and made a tree branch tap against the side of the building. She looked behind her, searched for the voice. Perhaps the stress from her problems had gotten to her? She shouldnâ€™t be surprised. The kind of tension sheâ€™d had would upset anyone. She shook her head and moved on.
â€œYuh heard me.â€
She looked around. The eerie voice floated on the breeze.
â€œI thought yuh was a fighter, not some silly woman who couldnâ€™t hold a grain aâ€™ salt.â€
That did it. Marie put a hand on her hip. â€œWhoever you are, you could at least have the courtesy to look me in the face.â€
â€œYuh really want me to? Dunno. Promised Jake I wouldnâ€™t.â€
â€œJake?â€ Marie turned around in a circle to look for the intruder. â€œYou know Jake?â€
â€œHah. Ought to. Been around since he was born.â€
The corner of her mouth rose. â€œYouâ€™re Gramps, arenâ€™t you?â€ She circled in the other direction and still couldnâ€™t see him. â€œCome out. I promise I wonâ€™t tell.â€
She jumped as the solid voice sounded behind her. She twirled around to face the man. In front of her stood an older Jake with a salt-and-pepper mustache. â€œButâ€¦â€ Stunned, she pointed at the building.
â€œWhere were you?â€
He had his hands on his hips and looked every bit as cocky as an older Jake would. â€œDonâ€™t worry â€™bout it, Miz Taylor. I move fast.â€ He crossed his arms. â€œBut yuh have to make good on that promise. Yuh cainâ€™t tell Jake yuh seen me.â€
â€œWhy?â€ She bit off her smile and eyed the senile older man. Jake had warned her that certain qualities ran in the family. In the dim light, Jakeâ€™s grandfather didnâ€™t look much more than forty-five, fifty max. His temples had a touch of gray and he wore the blue uniform of an eighteenth-century officer.
â€œWell, promise me and donâ€™t look at me like that cuz I know what youâ€™re thinkinâ€™. I ainâ€™t crazy.â€ His hands were cold as he took her arm and tucked it into his then walked her toward the creek. â€œTrust me, I got all my wits about me. I just work here sometimes is all.â€
Marie covered her mouth with her hand and laughed. â€œIâ€™m sorry. Iâ€¦well, I let my imagination get away with me. I swear I could hear people talking, and I donâ€™t mean anyone from this century.â€
He nodded. â€œThe place does that to yuh, donâ€™t it? Not to worry.â€ He stepped onto the bridge and gently lifted her arm to help her, as if she wore gloves and a hoop skirt. â€œThem that live here are here to protect.â€
She giggled. She still might be right about the senile part. â€œSo do they have reenactments?â€ She pointed to his clothes.
He grinned. â€œWell, I guess yuh could call it that.â€ He let go of her as they strolled across the wooden planks. â€œAnyway, that ainâ€™t what I came here to talk about.â€
Marie frowned. â€œHow did you know I was here?â€
â€œThat ainâ€™t important.â€ He took off his leather riding gloves and slapped them against his hand. â€œMiz Taylorâ€¦â€ He stopped and faced her. â€œI know yuh have a few problems but I want yuh tuh know that Jakeâ€™s in your camp. When trouble gits here, and it will, donâ€™t go flyinâ€™ off. Stand and fight. Like we did here at Fort Bridger. Jakeâ€™ll protect you.â€
â€œBut how do you know? I mean, how do you know troubleâ€™s following me?â€
â€œTrust me.â€ He touched the bill of his cap and nodded. â€œYou deserve some happiness and so does Jake. You two should be together.â€ Gramps hopped off the bridge onto the dirt pathway then offered her his arm. She placed her fingertips against his uniformed forearm and stepped off.
Smiling, the old gent walked her to the large gazebo that stood in the midst of a grove of trees. With the graciousness of an eighteenth-century gentleman, he took her hand and placed a cool kiss on the back of it. â€œYouâ€™re one fine lady. Now remember, weâ€™ll be there.â€ He turned and walked off.
He stopped and looked at her.
â€œWhat makes you so sure Jake and I are meant for each other?â€
He used that knowing Colder grin. â€œLetâ€™s say I have it from a higher authority. Now, I gotta go. Remember what I said.â€ With that, he disappeared.
Marie stared. Where did he go? She shook her head. He had to have gone through the trees. The shadows the moon cast must have caused the impression that heâ€™d simply disappeared.
Suddenly giddy, she ran up the stairs to the gazebo and imagined an army band playing. She swirled around a few times, and held out an arm as if she held part of her full ballroom skirt. She pretended to dance a waltz with a dark, handsome soldier who had escorted her to the grand eventâ€”one who looked exactly like Jake. Finally, she held up both arms and spun quickly around. The movement made her dizzy and she loved the sensation. Before she fell, she leaned her head against one of the poles that supported the roof.
â€œMay I have the next dance or is your card full for the evening?â€
The deep, rich voice floated to her. Marie jumped and grabbed her chest. Her heart pounded, her breath caught. Jake stood at the bottom of the stairs, smiling. Then he bolted up the steps two at a time.
â€œIf it is, I guess Iâ€™ll have to cut in.â€ He took her in his arms and gazed down at her. â€œI didnâ€™t mean to scare you.â€ He placed a light peck on her temple.
Marie found her voice. â€œJake.â€ Her body warmed in his embrace. â€œIâ€¦â€
From Guardian Angel, now out with Ellora’s Cave
Now, did you note, not just the visuals but the sounds, the sense of peace, the smells, the touch, the small happenings, like twigs blowing into her face? These are real things from Ft. Bridger and I should know. I experienced them myself. In a different lifetime I was a management consultant and visited Ft. Bridger often. Even went to the Mountain Man Rendezvous. I was a budding writer then and one night, after walking the abandon, lonely grounds, seeing the interstate in the distance, the idea for the story came to me. I rushed back to the motel room and jotted over 50 pages–a major feat. I used similar, not exact items, of some things, but the people and the events at the rendezvous were all of my imagination. Still, several things, like the rendezvous, the sense of the fort–even a tale about a ghost that lived in the officers quarters–were real. At least to me. And in this story, I share them with you.
My point is, sometimes is pays to use real things, real places, real events. You ingrained the reader so much more as they can connect with the characters. Even in fictional places, using what would transpire in that type of environ still connects the reader more to the story.
Thanks for dropping by. And hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If you wish is see more of the story, check out the link at Ellora’s Cave.
See you there, and many blessings~
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