Friday, September 20, 2019

Happy Anniversary, Hidden Springs ~ by Kristine Raymond

A few short weeks ago, I celebrated an anniversary.  Not the kind you think - or maybe it is, given my occupation.  On September 1, 2013, I sat down in front of my computer and began typing.  I was going to write a book - just for the fun of it.  You know, to see if I could.  What made its way from my brain to my fingers to my keyboard and into my Word document ended up as the first of nine books in the Hidden Springs series.

I remember knowing with unfailing certainty that my story would take place in the Old West.  How could it not when I, the author, often dreamed of living in an untamed land where a man who was fast on the draw was equally quick to defend a lady's honor?  And that same woman, with her demure manner and gentle smile, in reality, hid a spine made of railroad spikes beneath her corset.  Ah, those were the days, weren't they?

As the words flowed, my characters began to take shape.  Sam Mackenzie, a drifter cowboy, searching for a place to belong.  Kate Ryan, a woman mistrustful of strangers, due in no small part to the violence that stripped her of her family and left her guarding a terrible secret.  Add in a frontier town, a wild horse roundup, and a love story with more twists and turns than a sidewinder, and voila!  Here to Stay was born.

Two more books followed in rapid succession - Hearts on Fire and Abby's Heart.  Two stories that pulled me deeper into this Old West world I'd created.  More followed, as each book birthed the next; sideline characters demanding equal time on the page. Before I knew it, I'd published nine books total with stories spanning thirty-three years.  All that from writing a single story for the fun of it.

I've often been asked which Hidden Springs book is my favorite and, to that, I have no answer.  Each one holds a special place in my heart, not only because they are extensions of my imagination, but because the characters and storylines and the town itself, fictional as it is, are real to me.  I love these people like they are my own friends and family.  I'm invested in their lives and futures.  I laugh with them, cry with them; celebrate their victories and commiserate with them in their defeats.  And more often than not, I giggle at their antics, identifying on a personal level with certain quirks in their personalities.  So, in a way, I guess, you could say that every time I read one of my books, I am living back in the Old West.

Excerpt from Dancing in the Dark:

The two men strode down the middle of Main Street, small clouds of dust swirling up from beneath their boot heels.  They didn’t seem to notice the looks cast in their direction by curious townspeople, who wondered what was causing the grim expressions on their faces.  Neither spoke, each man occupied by his own thoughts, though if they had, they would’ve discovered they were both thinking about the same person – Melinda Sue.

Jack’s thoughts were spinning; bouncing around in his head like the marble set his son, Micah, played with. As marshal of Hidden Springs, he had an oath to uphold, to protect the citizens of this town he loved, and those who lived in outlying areas, from anyone who wished to cause them harm. He’d failed to do that very thing six years ago and now, he wasn’t sure he could face Melinda Sue objectively. The woman had caused too much hurt and anger, and given his previous personal relationship with her, he’d always felt he shared some responsibility for her actions.

Rusty, on the other hand, was wondering why Melinda Sue would encourage her new husband to settle here, and more specifically, what fueled his interest in the Brewerton place. Garrett Sterling appeared affluent enough to reside anywhere he wanted, and though Hidden Springs was a fine place to live, it seemed beneath the station of someone so wealthy. Stomach churning, he followed Jack up the steps of the boarding house and entered the building.

“Good day, Mrs. Peabody,” Jack said, touching the brim of his hat. “I was wondering if you could tell me if a Mr. Garrett Sterling and his wife are staying here.”

“Wife!” The boarding house owner sniffed haughtily. “You mean that nasty Melinda Sue Perkins? Yep, they’re stayin’ here.” The robust woman came around the front desk, hands on her hips. “If I’da known who she was beforehand, I never woulda’ rented the room. But that Mr. Sterling came in by himself, all shined up and waving a handful of bills. It wasn’t ‘til after I gave him the key that he brought that woman in.”

“It’s alright, Mrs. Peabody. I understand how you feel.” Jack reached over and took her hand, patting it reassuringly. “I wonder if you might tell me which room they’re in. I’d like to have a conversation with the Sterlings.”

Returning the pat, Delilah Peabody arched an eyebrow. “A conversation, huh? Can you promise me you won’t be conversin’ with bullets? I have other guests to think about, you know.”

“I’ll do my best to keep the shooting to a minimum,” Jack assured her, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, alright then. They’re in room three. Top of the stairs to the right.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” He walked to the staircase and eased his way up, taking care to tread lightly. Rusty followed close on his heels, alert to any danger that might arise. When they reached the landing, they could hear loud voices coming from the room in question. Jack held his fingers up to his lips and leaned closer to the door, eavesdropping on the conversation taking place inside.

“… don’t care what you think! You promised me we’d come back and live here and I’m holding you to that!”

“Melinda, darlin’, you were less than forthcoming in describing this town. What am I supposed to do here all day? There is no theatre or music house in this…this…settlement, or a decent drinking establishment. The only thing I’ve seen that arouses my interest is the whorehouse.”

“Whorehouse? Over my dead body! No husband of mine will visit a whorehouse. I’ll not have the people of this town talking behind my back!” A drawer slammed shut. “Besides, I thought you wanted to be a rancher.”

Eager to hear Sterling’s response, Rusty leaned forward next to Jack, his ear to the door.

“A rancher!” Sterling snorted. “What I want, my darling wife, is a spread so big it makes every living soul in this territory green with envy. I want horses and cattle and crops, and most importantly, I want dozens of men to do the work for me. Did you see the condition of that house? The barns? The land? It’ll take months, maybe years to build the Brewerton place up to my standards.”

White hot anger boiled up inside of Rusty. It was bad enough the man was willing to pay more for the one place Rusty wanted; now he was vilifying it. Glancing at Jack, he straightened, taking a step back from the door, his spur jiggling as it made contact with a tea table sitting against the wall. The conversation in the room came to an abrupt halt and Jack barely had time to move away from the door before it was flung open.

“Why Marshal Tanner, what a pleasure to see you.” Melinda Sue draped herself against the doorway, her low cut dress showing an ample amount of cleavage. “How’ve you been, Jack?” she cooed, placing her hand on his chest. “Married life agreeing with you?” Her seductive implication was not lost on anyone.

“Darling,” Sterling remarked exaggeratedly, walking over to stand by his wife, “aren’t you going to invite our guests in?” He offered Jack his hand as the men entered the room. “Garrett Sterling. A pleasure to meet you, sir. My wife speaks very highly of you.”

Jack hid a grimace. “I bet she does,” he replied sardonically. “I believe you’ve met Rusty Flanagan?”

“Ah, Mr. Flanagan, my good man. Nice to see you again. Though I should hold a grudge that you’re trying to acquire a certain piece of land I have my eye on, I do rather like a challenge.” The man walked over to a sideboard, upon which several bottles of liquor were displayed. “Either of you gentlemen care for a drink? Whiskey, perhaps? Brandy? No? Well, excuse me while I prepare myself a libation. It’s been quite an afternoon.” He poured an inch of amber liquid into a tumbler and drank it down, then refilled his glass. Settling himself on the settee, he looked expectantly at Jack, waiting for the lawman to speak.

“Mr. Sterling…,”

“Garrett, please. Mr. Sterling sounds so formal.”

“Mr. Sterling,” Jack repeated, resuming his line of questioning. “What brings you to Hidden Springs?”

“I thought that had been made clear.” Turning to Rusty, he asked, “Didn’t you tell him that I’ve put a bid in on the Brewerton place?”

“He did tell me that. And I’m asking you again – what are you doing in Hidden Springs?”

“You always were straight to the point, Jack,” Melinda Sue laughed.

Ignoring her, Jack leveled his gaze at her husband, folding his arms across his chest. The older man shifted in his seat, almost imperceptibly, but his movement didn’t escape the lawman’s notice. “I’m waiting.”

“Now see here!” Sterling huffed, jumping up from the settee, “there is no good reason for you to be here questioning our intentions. Is this how you welcome every newcomer to your town?” His attempt to sound injured over having his motives challenged fell flat, the sweat on his forehead and puffy red cheeks giving him away.

“That’s where you’re mistaken,” Jack clarified, in a level tone. “I’m not welcoming you to town. In fact, I’m inviting you to leave. Today, and never come back. Your wife is not welcome here and by extension, neither are you.”  

Get Dancing in the Dark here.


About the Author

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book.  Sixteen books (in multiple genres) later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.

Find out more about Kristine on her website at and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub.

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at

1 comment:

Renaissance Women said...

Those types of anniversaries are so special. May you continue your 'relationship' with your keyboard. (Smile) Doris