No Small Tempest
It's here! The second story in the Muleskinners series took a while, partly because I got caught up in a bunch of other projects and partly because of the publisher's schedule.
What's it about?
Elsie Parry aims to get this load of salt delivered to Kearney, Nebraska, come hell or high water. Or outlaws. Or Indians. Her other driver, Hank, and her former outlaw brother Zeb will help – but her eight draft mules (who think they are Greek gods) will make the difference. If she can keep them from being stolen – or eaten.
The inside scoop
The Civil War wasn't kind to Elsie, her family, her home, or her neighbors. In 1863, border ruffians abducted her brother, Zeb, along with the neighbor boy, Hank, from the family farm in Missouri. The next year, more came – she didn't know which side – and burned the farm to the ground. Elsie was given responsibility for eight draft mule foals and sent to live on a forested hill out of harm's way. She had little contact with the outside world, but her father visited infrequently.
She learned her mother had passed away, whether from sickness or hunger, Elsie didn't know, and neither did her father. In fact, he disappeared the last year of the war and Elsie thought he was dead, too, but imagine her elation to find him alive and relatively well five years later.
Meantime, those eight mules were her only friends and she'd named them after the Greek gods in her mother's book: Hermes, Zeus, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Aries, Apollo, Hades, and Plato (who's not a god but he's quite the thinker). They have a good rapport, and she's very protective of them.
Her papa was born with the gift of blarney, and he's a lot better at making deals than actually coming through with them. Still, he's her father and she loves him dearly – her only family other than the mules.
The underlying theme of the Muleskinners series is undoing the emotional damage that the war caused. It tore her family apart--killed some of them, and scarred the rest. But Elsie doesn't let these things get her down. She's determined, bold, and can be a little hard-nosed at times. She's also compassionate and has a wicked sense of humor.
Part of her character is patterned after my late aunt, who could get just about any animal to do whatever she asked of them. Some people have it--most don't. My aunt had it and so does Elsie. My aunt also lived by her beliefs--right, wrong, or Bisquik. Elsie has that trait, too, super-sized. She also has a lot of other traits that my aunt didn't have. Elsie is, bein's she's a fictional character, larger than life.
Yes, you're better off reading Muleskinners #1: Judge Not first because this is a true sequential series. Judge Not is the first leg of her journey, so while No Small Tempest could be read as a stand-alone, you'd get a lot more out it if you've read the first one.
About the cover model. Or not. We simply couldn't find any photos that worked for Elsie. The one we chose was the least worst, so you'll see the same picture on the next three stories, and she'll be wearing the same thing unless we can find something else. Despite that, I thought Karen M. Nutt did a great job with the cover. Thanks, Karen!
I'd also like to thank Troy Smith who got me into this mess in the first place. He told me I could write a story for the Wolf Creek series and I did--but used my own cast instead of the Wolf Creek characters as he intended. Through that misunderstanding, this series was born, and now he, at the helm of Western Trail Blazer, is publishing it. Go figger.
May your saddle never slip.