Monday, March 28, 2011

I Want to be a Cowgirl - by guest blogger Ann Charles

Cowgirl Ann Charles, Author of the Deadwood Mystery Series

I recently presented my tax workshop at the Greater Seattle Romance Writers chapter and wow! What a group of talented and smart women! One of the writers I met was Ann Charles. Once I met Ann, I knew we had to have her as a guest on our blog. Ann is the author of the Deadwood Mystery Series and, like the authors here at the Killer Fiction Blog, writes books with smart, strong heroines.


Here's what people are saying about Ann's release:

"This gem has a bit of everything...mystery, romance, comedy, suspense, and even a bit of the paranormal. Ann Charles has a winner in Violet Parker. I have a new favorite author in the mystery genre! ***** FIVE STARS!" ~Huntress Reviews

"Watch out Stephanie Plum, because Violet Parker is coming your way." ~Deborah Schneider, RWA Librarian of the Year 2009 & author of Promise Me

"It's no wonder Nearly Departed in Deadwood won the best overall book for the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense!" ~Susan Schreyer, author Death By A Dark Horse

"Nearly Departed in Deadwood is a delightful mix of on the edge suspense and laugh-out-loud humor. Ann Charles is a star in the making!" ~Gerri Russell, award-winning author of Seducing the Knight

* * *
From the back cover:

The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.--Violet Parker

Irony is having a big ol' fiesta and Violet Parker is the piñata. Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet's daughter could be next. Short on time and long on worry, she's desperate to find the monster behind the abductions. But with her jerkoff co-worker trying to get her fired, a secret admirer sending creepy love poems, and a sexy-as-hell stranger hiding skeletons in his closet, Violet just might end up as one of Deadwood's dearly departed.

And with no further adieu, let's welcome Ann to the Killer Fiction Writers Blog! - Diane Kelly

I Want to be a Cowgirl
by Ann Charles

For many, many moons, I’ve wanted a pair of purple cowboy boots. But being that I live in Seattle where cowboy boots are more of a fashion extravagance than a day-to-day essential clothing item, I keep putting it off. However, the inner cowgirl in me has come up with a rather ingenious plan to make those purple cowboy boots a necessity. But before I tell you her idea, let me backtrack a little to explain who I am, and why the marvelous and super smart Diane “Killer” Kelly asked me to come hang out with you all at Killer Fiction today.

I grew up on a small farm in Ohio. We didn’t wear cowboy hats, we didn’t ride horses. We farmed. Period. The land was flat, the sky was always powder blue in the summer due to so much humidity. We bucked bales in John Deere hats and plain old work boots. But many evenings, as I watched the sun set on the western horizon, I daydreamed about moving out West, living on a ranch, being a cowgirl.

After high school, I moved to Southern California. Beach bum was more my style then. A few years later, Flagstaff, Arizona became my stomping grounds. Sure, there were cowboys there, but I was attending Northern Arizona University, known as a “granola” college. Cowboy hats were a rarity. From Arizona, I jumped to Seattle. Grunge was the name of the game at the time. No cowboy anything to be had.

By this time in my life, I’d started writing stories. Funny thing about these stories—most of them took place out West. Most had cowboy elements or characters in them. Most held elements of the daydreams belonging to that young farm girl from Ohio.

A few years ago, I paid a visit to my mother in Deadwood, South Dakota. She’d moved there back when I was in junior high, and I was lucky enough to visit her in the Black Hills every summer for over a month at a time while growing up. (Note: Deadwood is full of cowboys.

Anyway, while driving into Deadwood, an idea for a story hit me. It involved a single mother of twins, a new job in a new career in a new town—Deadwood. I chose Violet for her name, wanting something old-fashioned. I wanted her to be witty and sassy, strong yet compassionate, determined and too curious for her own good. And I wanted her to have a pair of purple cowboy boots.

Over the next several months, I wrote Violet’s story, titled Nearly Departed in Deadwood. The struggle for publication was long and full of frustration and near misses with big New York publishers. In the end, there publishers repeatedly expressed doubt about Violet’s story appealing to a “big” enough audience. But I knew in my heart there was a big audience for Violet. I knew that tastes for stories weren’t the same for mid-westerners and westerners as those who live in New York, and my gut told me Violet would find a following. So, I partnered with a small press publisher, pulled all of the strings I could reach, asked my brother to draw the cover and the interior art, and went to print, both in ebook and trade paperback.

The promotion work started years ago, as friends and family and fellow authors watched me struggle to obtain publication, take my fair share beatings, but never give up. By the time Nearly Departed in Deadwood came out in ebook, it already had a large team of supporters determined to see it succeed. Since publication, volunteers have freely given their time to help spread the word. The city of Deadwood and surrounding towns have joined in the movement. Now, Violet’s fanbase is growing stronger by the day, readers loving her sense of humor and cheering her determination to succeed.

But what does this have to do with that ingenious plan to score a pair of purple boots (did I mention the boots I want cost $400)? Simple—Violet Parker’s talisman is her purple boots. As you read her story, you come learn the importance of these boots. They even made the cover!

As I promote the book, readers want posters and key chains and magnets with the purple boots on them. When I show up at a book signing, they expect me to represent Violet. To be witty and sassy, to be strong yet compassionate, and most importantly—to wear those purple cowboy boots. So you see, thanks to Violet and Nearly Departed in Deadwood, I now have the perfect excuse to buy those purple cowboy boots.

Finally, this farm girl from Ohio gets to be a cowgirl, like I dreamed of doing so long ago.

What about you? Do you have any old daydreams that have come true that you want to share? Or any fun stories about your author journey? Did you daydream about being a cowgirl or cowboy when you were a kid, too?

Thank you, Diane, for inviting me to be on the Killer Fiction blog today. It’s a huge honor to get to hang out with you all!

Ann Charles


Chapter One
Deadwood, South Dakota
Monday, July 9th

The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass. Now, twenty-five years later, as I stared into the double barrels of Old Man Harvey’s shotgun, irony was having a fiesta and I was the piñata.

I tried to produce a polite smile, but my cheeks had petrified along with my heart. “You wouldn’t shoot a girl, would you?”

Old Man Harvey snorted, his whole face contorting with the effort. “Lady, I’d blow the damned Easter bunny’s head off if he was tryin’ to take what’s mine.”

He cocked his shotgun—his version of an exclamation mark.

“Whoa!” I would have gulped had there been any spit left in my mouth. “I’m not here to take anything.”

He replied by aiming those two barrels at my chest instead of my face.

“I’m with Calamity Jane Realty, I swear! I came to ...”

With Harvey threatening to fill my lungs with peepholes, I had trouble remembering why I’d driven out to this corner of the boonies. Oh, yeah. Lowering one of my hands, I held out my crushed business card. “I want to help you sell your ranch.”
The double barrels clinked against one of the buttons on my Rebecca Taylor-knockoff jacket as Harvey grabbed my card. I swallowed a squawk of panic and willed the soles of my boots to unglue from the floorboards of Harvey’s front porch and retreat. Unfortunately, my brain’s direct line to my feet was experiencing technical difficulties.

Harvey’s squint relaxed. “Violet Parker, huh?”

“That’s me.” My voice sounded pip-squeaky in my own ears. I couldn’t help it. Guns made my thighs wobbly and my bladder heavy. Had I not made a pit stop at Girdy’s Grill for a buffalo burger and paid a visit to the little Hens room, I’d have a puddle in the bottom of my favorite cowboy boots by now.

“Your boots match your name. What’s a ‘Broker Associate’?”

“It’s someone who is going to lose her job if she doesn’t sell a house in the next three weeks.” I lowered my other hand.

I’d been with Calamity Jane Realty for a little over two months and had yet to make a single sale. So much for my radical, life-changing leap into a new career. If I didn’t make a sale before my probation was up, I’d have to drag my kids back down to the prairie and bunk with my parents ... again.

“You’re a lot purtier in this here picture with your hair down.”

“So I’ve been told.” Old Man Harvey seemed to be channeling my nine-year-old daughter today. Lucky me.

“Makes you look younger, like a fine heifer.”

I cocked my head to the side, unsure if I’d just been tossed a compliment or slapped with an insult.

The shotgun dipped to my belly button as he held the card out for me to take back.
“Keep it. I have plenty.” A whole box full. They helped fill the lone drawer in my desk back at Calamity Jane’s.

“So that asshole from the bank didn’t send you?”

“No.” An asshole from my office had, and the bastard would be extracting his balls from his esophagus for this so-called generous referral—if I made it back to Calamity Jane’s without looking like a human sieve.

“Then how’d you know about my gambling problem?”

“What gambling problem?”

Old Man Harvey’s eyes narrowed again. He whipped the double barrels back up to my kisser. “The only way you’d know I’m thinking about selling is if you heard about my gambling debt.”

“Oh, you mean that gambling problem.”

“What’d you think I meant?”

Bluffing was easier when I wasn’t chatting up a shotgun. “I thought you were referring to the ... um ...” A tidbit of a phone conversation I’d overheard earlier this morning came to mind. “To the problem you had at the Prairie Dog Palace.”
Harvey’s jaw jutted. “Mud wrestling has no age limit.”

“You’re right. They need to be less age-biased. Maybe even have an AARP Night every Wednesday.”

“Nobody told me about the bikini bit ‘til it was too late.”

I winced. I couldn’t help it.

“So, what’re you gonna charge me to sell my place?”

“What would you like me to charge you?” I was all about pleasing the customer this afternoon.

He leaned the gun on his shoulder, double barrels pointed at the porch ceiling. “The usual, I guess.”

No longer on the verge of extinction, I used the porch rail to keep from keeling over. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the realty business. Did they still sell encyclopedias door-to-door?

“This ranch belonged to my pappy, and his pappy before him.” Harvey’s lips thinned as he stared over my shoulder.

“It must hold a big place in your heart.” I tried to sound sincere as I inched along the railing toward the steps. My red Bronco glinted and beckoned under the July sun.

“Hell, no. I can’t wait to shuck this shithole.”

“What?” I’d made it as far as the first step.

“I’m sick and tired of fixin’ rusted fences, chasing four-wheeling fools through my pastures, sniffing out lost cows in every damned gulch and gully.” His blue eyes snapped back to mine. “And I keep hearing funny noises at night coming from out behind my ol’ barn.”

I followed the nudge of his bearded chin. Weathered and white-washed by Mother Nature, the sprawling building’s roof seemed to sag in the afternoon heat. The doors were chained shut, one of the haymow windows broken. “Funny how?”

“Like grab-your-shotgun funny.”

Normally, this might give me pause, but after the greeting I’d received today from the old codger’s double barrels, I had a feeling that Harvey wore his shotgun around the house like a pair of holey underwear. I’d bet my measly savings he even slept with it. “Maybe it’s just a mountain lion,” I suggested. “The paper said there’s been a surge of sightings lately.”

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Harvey shrugged. “I don’t care. I want to move to town. It gets awful lonely out here come wintertime. Start thinking about things that just ain’t right. I almost married a girl from Taiwan last January. Turned out ‘she’ was really a ‘he’ from Nigeria.”


“Damned Internet.” Harvey’s gaze washed over me. “What about you, Violet Parker?”

“What about me?”

“There’s no ring on your finger. You got a boyfriend?”

“Uh, no.”

I didn’t want one, either. Men had a history of fouling up my life, from burning down my house to leaving me knocked up with twins. These days, I liked my relationships how I liked my eggs: over-easy.

Harvey’s two gold teeth twinkled at me through his whiskers. “Then how about a drink? Scotch or gin?”

I chewed on my lip, considering my options. I could climb into my Bronco and watch this opportunity and the crazy old bastard with the trigger-happy finger disappear in my rearview mirror; or I could blow off common sense and follow Harvey in for some hard liquor and maybe a signed contract.

Like I really had a choice. “Do you have any tonic?”

VISIT ANN AT! Links to buy Ann's books can be found at:


Diane Kelly said...

BIG CONGRATS on the Golden Heart nomination! Wooo hooo!!!!! Or should I say "Yee-ha?" : )

Anonymous said...

Major congrats on the Golden Heart nomination!!!!!! And I came across your book on Amazon the other day, actually. I thought it sounded good. I'll have to go back and get it!

Ann Charles said...

Thanks, Diane! It made for a wonderful start to my weekend. :) I think Yee-ha is definitely appropriate!


Ann Charles said...

Amanda, thank you on the congrats. I'm thrilled to get to tell people Nearly Departed won the Daphne and finaled in the Golden Heart.

Thanks on giving my book a try. I hope you get a few laughs out of it--that's my goal when it comes to readers.

I appreciate you stopping by today.


Mons said...

Love your excerpt, Ann! Funny! And Congrats on the GH nom.

Susan Schreyer said...

I have to say I'm relieved you didn't plan a heist to acquire those boots. And I'll admit to a personal understanding of the "cow-girl fantasy" -- sigh. (I still go there sometimes ;) ).

Loved -- no, LOVED your book! Everyone should read it, whether they admit to their secret cow-girl longing or not. (and when you buy those purple boots you can come to Monroe and wear them. If anyone stares, it will be with envy!!)

Ann Charles said...

Mons--thanks for the congrats and for stopping by. I have fun writing scenes with Ol' Man Harvey in them.


Ann Charles said...

Susan, you can bet your boots I'll wear my purple boots out your way. Thank you for your kind words about NDD. I have your second book, Levels of Deception, on my to-read list. I can't wait!


Anonymous said...

I love this book and can't wait for the sequel!! Harvey might be my fave. I'm so glad you put in excerpt including him.