Please help me welcome Tracy Garrett to Cowboy Kisses!
I have the pleasure of being included in Prairie Rose Publications boxed set, Under a Western Sky, along with Tracy. After reading her story, Texas Gold, I had a few questions for her.
One thing I noticed right away just reading Texas Gold is that you are really good at writing action. And by that I mean, not only do you write the “action” scenes well, but you write all the small actions taken by your characters in such a way that it paints a very clear picture for the reader, which tells me you also have a clear vision of what’s going on in a scene. Actions such as putting the kettle on or crossing the room blend seamlessly into the narrative. Do you have any tricks that help you?
Tracy: Thank you, Patti! Maybe it’s my training as a flutist, but details matter to me. On this adventure of “writing” I’ve attended many wonderful lectures and workshops and there’s always some nugget of gold to be gleaned. Once I heard a writer say “your character can’t put down the glass if they never picked it up.” I want my readers to feel like they’re right there in the scene. Showing the motions is part of that, as long as I don’t get carried away.
I think I remember you commenting that Texas Gold was your first historical western. Are there other genres you write in? What is it about the historical western that captures your imagination?
Tracy: “Texas Gold” [originally titled “Touch of Texas”] was my first published novel. There’s one I wrote before that, but it won’t see the light of day without some major rewriting. Maybe it’s growing up on television series like “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke,” but historical westerns have always been my first love. Add to that the stories my grandmother told me of growing up on a wheat ranch in turn-of-the-century North Dakota, complete with buggies and windmills and a Sioux reservation nearby, and I can’t imagine not writing historical westerns.
Your story is so rich in detail. You don’t look over a hundred years old, and yet I feel as a reader that you have personal knowledge of some the items or actions found on the Texas frontier. I almost wondered if you’re a reenactor! What sources do you use for historical accuracy?
Tracy: lol I’m not quite that old! I enjoy research whether in books, online or visits to museums and pioneer villages. Seeing history in place, so to speak, helps me imagine how things might have been used. For my weapons research, my husband and I took up Cowboy Action Shooting. It’s target shooting in period costume. It isn’t reenacting—we’re not that serious—but we dress in period-correct clothing and shoot period-correct weapons. As Ozark Belle, I shoot two revolvers, an 1873 lever-action rifle and a double-barreled shotgun or coach gun.
|Tracy as Ozark Belle Collecting Brass|
The more I read about the Texas settlers, the more I’m amazed by the families who managed to hold onto their land into the next generations. They had a lot to contend with. Hence, the Texas Rangers, which is what your hero, Jake, is. What can you tell us about the history of the Rangers? Do you have a family connection to Texas?
Tracy: I’m in awe of the people who left everything familiar to carve out a life in the unknown west. And the Texas Rangers, men who brought their own horse, saddle and weapons, accepted commission and rode out alone to uphold the law, because it was the right thing to do, are larger than life to me. If you’re ever in Waco, Texas, visit the Texas Ranger Museum. It’s absolutely worth the trip.
What inspired you to write this story?
Tracy: A sentence in an article about gold mining in the Davis Mountains of Texas. It was never profitable, but that didn’t stop people from trying. They still do. I wondered what would bring people to such a remote place? All hardship, no luxuries. Just a dream of hitting it big. Then came two characters who were ostracized from society for different reasons, but that together could create their own “gold.”
Where do you write? Do you have a routine? Any rituals?
Tracy: I write wherever I am when I have time. Usually it’s in my big leather chair overlooking the Lake. No routine, no rituals, unless having a cup of coffee first is a ritual.
|The Author's View|
Being an author is a strange profession in many ways. Was there that one moment in your career where someone asked you what you do and you said, “I’m a writer” for the first time? In other words, have you always considered yourself a writer, or was there a hurdle or two for you to jump over before you felt you could call yourself that?
Tracy: Writing was never in my life plan. I’m a musician. I hold two degrees in music. Part of my day job now is as a choir conductor. I’ve always been a performer. But one day, bored with my day job, I decided to write down the scene that had been playing over and over in my mind, keeping me awake nights. After that came the next scene and the next, and eventually I had a completed story. [That’s the one that hasn’t seen daylight in years.] Even then I didn’t consider myself a writer. It wasn’t until the teacher of a novel-writing course said “If you write, you’re a writer.” Epiphany! I still have moments where I stumble over introducing myself as a writer, but I’m getting there.
Award-winning author Tracy Garrett has always loved to disappear into the worlds created within the pages of a book. An accomplished musician, Tracy merged her need for creativity, her love of history, and her passion for reading when she began writing western historical romance. An active member of Romance Writers of America, Tracy now resides in Missouri with her husband and their furry kid, Wrigley.
EXCERPT – TEXAS GOLD
West Texas, Early March, 1890
Whoever said hell was hot had lied. It was cold, bitter cold. Not that he’d live to tell anyone of the discovery. The snow came down sideways, so hard Jake McCain couldn’t see past the end of his horse’s nose. He had no way to tell where he was or where he was going. The icy pellets were like razor sharp knives, flaying his face until he figured he must be bleeding. Lucky for him the cold kept him from feeling much of anything. Death dogged his heels and he couldn’t find the energy to care.
He’d climbed from the saddle an hour ago—or was it only a few minutes—and started walking. He hated using his horse as a windbreak, but the animal’s hide could take the stinging ice longer than his own skin, no matter how many layers of clothes he wore. But Griffin was beginning to tire. If Jake didn’t find shelter soon, they’d find whatever was left of him and his horse at the next thaw.
Jake braced himself against the saddle before lifting his head enough to look around. The vicious wind stole his breath. He could barely force his eyes open against the onslaught. He usually had a good sense of direction and distance, but the blizzard and the vicious beating he’d taken at the hands of the men he was supposed to be arresting made it impossible to be sure of anything. He could be close to the mining town he’d been heading for, or miles from anywhere.
Narrowing his eyes against the blowing snow and ice, he studied the frosted landscape. Something flickered, only for an instant, in the distance. Was it his imagination? With his grip tight on the reins, he started for the spot. Real or not, he’d rather be going somewhere than standing around waiting to freeze to death.
He struggled forward, toward the light, or where he thought it should be. He’d lost sight of it. Jake ducked his head behind Griffin’s neck, squeezed his eyes shut a couple of times and looked again, but it was gone. Had he somehow gotten turned around? Just when he decided he’d been walking in circles, the wind backed off, the snow lessened, and he saw the light again.
He concentrated on each step, putting one foot in front of the other. Griffin stumbled, catching him by surprise and taking them both to the ground. It took all Jake’s will to drag himself to his feet and urge the big horse back up. He buried his battered face against the animal’s furry neck, and trudged on, making for that little flicker of salvation.
The next time he looked up he couldn’t see the light. Must’ve been his imagination after all. He took a step, sinking in a drift. Jake thought of his mother, alone in Abilene. He hoped whoever gave her the news of his death was gentle with it. He dragged his other foot forward. His frozen boot caught on something and he fell face down in the snow. Wooden planks broke his fall instead of rock hard ground. He tried to lift his head, but it took too much effort. Griffin took advantage of the stop to turn his rump to the wind, leaving Jake with no protection from the vicious storm.
Battling against the brutal cold, he dragged himself forward. His head bumped something solid. He pulled himself up until he half sat against a thick wood door, but he didn’t have the strength left to knock. Cursing his weakness, Jake tried to force a hand up. No use. Both lay limp at his sides.
If he’d had the breath, he would have laughed at the cruel joke life had played on him, one of many tossed his way. He’d made it—somewhere—and he was going to die anyway. His mind rebelled at the thought of the bastards finally beating him, but even failing his last assignment couldn’t give him the strength to lift a fist. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back. At least he would be found and buried properly.