Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cheryl Gorman, The Secret Truth at Dare Ranch, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: Cheryl Gorman
BOOK TITLE: The Secret Truth at Dare Ranch
PUBLISHER: Prairie Wind Communications
GIVEAWAY: One Free copy to one lucky commenter - Be sure to leave contact information in your comment to be eligible for the drawing.

Tell me a little about your book. 
This is a contemporary western set in Colorado.

Here is the blurb:

He was back. Ranch owner, Lexie Dare never thought she would see her child's father again. Now Mitch Quinn not only wants to buy her ranch but also be a father to the child she has kept secret for seven years.

Set on a ranch in the Colorado high country The Secret Truth at Dare Ranch tells the story of a woman struggling to save her failing ranch and overcome the tragedy of her brother's death and one man's determination to preserve his best friend's memory.

When hardworking ranch owner and devoted mother, Alexa "Lexie" Dare learns that Mitch Quinn, her heart-stopping cocky friend from childhood wants to buy her failing ranch, she is stunned and desperate to stop him. But as the days go by, mutual attraction, shared kisses and time spent with their daughter draw them closer together emotionally. Has the passion they shared one long ago night truly ever been extinguished? Or is the tragedy of the past too much for love to overcome?

What gave you the idea for this particular story?
I wanted to write a “save the ranch-secret baby” story but with a twist. I am a very honest person in fact I can be brutally honest at times. I wanted to explore how keeping the truth hidden could be a good thing and I never believed it until I wrote this book. And no, the real secret I’m referring to does not involve the child. 

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? 
I am a full time writer but I have to fit writing in around being a mother and a wife. My family always comes first, but I have learned the art of multi-tasking. I can write, do laundry, chauffer my daughter around and make dinner all at the same time. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 
I always excelled in school at English and I loved doing term papers. I loved essay questions on tests. But the realization that I wanted to be a writer came to me slowly like the sun rising. When my grandmother passed away in 1987, two profound decisions forever changed my life. One was that I wanted to be a professional writer, and two that I wanted to move to Colorado and make it my home.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope they will escape from the cares of their everyday lives and lose themselves in my stories. I hope they relate to my characters on an emotional level and they think about my story people and maybe even a few scenes long after they finish the book. I also hope they want to read more of my books in the future. 

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I write contemporary, and I love writing contemporary, but I have historical novels and paranormal novels in my future.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
For me, it’s self-doubt. To be a writer you have to believe in yourself, your stories, your voice and your willingness to learn and grow through all of the rejections along the way. Never let any critique, review, contest judge’s or editor’s comments keep you from writing. Never give someone that kind of power. And anytime you read a fabulous story don’t ever think you can’t write one. Because you can!

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
No, this book is complete fiction.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
My heroine, Alexa Dare is like me in that she doesn’t quit. She’s a fighter, a survivor and a woman who loves her home and her family. 

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
I did some research about ranches and how they are run especially in regard to the number of cattle and the acreage required to sustain the cattle along with ranch hands that would be needed.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
I have written a couple of romantic suspense stories in which some violence occurred. I also pushed the sexual envelope on my story Sheriff in Her Stocking for the original publisher because they asked me to, and it brought me another contract. Was I bothered by writing the scenes of violence and by the highly-charged sex scenes I was required to write in Sheriff in Her Stocking? I felt uncomfortable about the sex scenes and still do in Sheriff in Her Stocking. I won’t be writing this type of book again for that reason. I want to focus my stories on hearth and home and family.  Will there be any love scenes in any of my future books? Yes, absolutely but they will be “love” scenes and not “sex” scenes. There’s a difference. The paranormal I have planned will contain some scenes of violence, and I have no problem writing these scenes because the core of the story lies in the importance of family and country and that good must always triumph over evil. Freedom has never been easy and never will be and sometimes it takes everything we’ve got to preserve it even our lives and the lives of others.

What about your book makes it special?
The Secret Truth at Dare Ranch is a love story at its heart, but it’s also about a woman’s struggle to save the only home she’s ever known and her dogged determination to preserve her brother’s memory. It is a story that everyone can relate to.

What is your marketing plan?
I have a web site and blog. I’m on Twitter and Facebook, and I love hearing from readers. I rarely advertise because I believe that book sales come through word of mouth.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
@CherylGorman3 on Twitter

Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
It’s all about the characters. Build great characters and let your characters lead you when your write. Don’t fret over the minutia of writing a novel. Try and see your book as a whole. Ask yourself: What do my characters need to learn by the end of the book? Get the first draft down, have fun with it then go back and polish, edit and tighten. Find a good critique partner or critique group with people you trust. Remember that a good critique partner/group is like a marriage. When it works, it’s grand, but when it doesn’t, it’s a nightmare. Don’t be afraid to move on if you find yourself in the middle of a critiquing nightmare. Don’t be close-minded but trust your instincts when it comes to your story and characters.

What’s in the future for you? 
I am working on revisions of a contemporary western for an editor at Entangled Publishing which I’m very excited about. While doing these revisions, I am working on finishing an inspirational historical novel. Once these two projects are complete, I have a women’s fiction story I want to write and also a mainstream historical novel set during the Victorian era. I want to finish the paranormal and I also have a falling-for-the-nanny story I want to write.


Chapter One

            "You still take a man’s breath, Lexie."
Alexa Dare froze with her hammer in mid air and her right foot planted in a pile of horse manure. Seven years had passed since his husky baritone had rippled over her nerve endings. Her heart jerked in her chest like a colt not used to the feel of a saddle on his back.
            What was he doing here?
             She inhaled a breath, turned and faced Mitch Quinn.
He stood in the alleyway of the barn with Colorado afternoon sunlight streaming in behind him and dust motes dancing in the air. No stubble covered his stubborn, arrogant jaw the way it used to. A thin, white crescent scar still showed on his left cheekbone where years ago, her father had slugged him.
An expensive suit and tie had replaced his jeans and T-shirt, but his six-foot frame was still hard and lean enough to make a woman sigh. His blond-streaked brown hair was no longer pulled back with a strip of leather, but cut short exposing his smooth, toned neck. A neck she'd tasted with her lips and tongue, a neck she'd nipped with her teeth.
His gaze skimmed her face and he threw her the same, heart-stopping cocky grin she remembered from their youth. "Mitch. What are you doing here?" Thank goodness her voice was composed.
Lexie’s misgivings about Mitch showing up out of the blue increased by the second as she looked past him toward the open doorway.
Dani would be home soon.
She leaned over and grabbed a couple of nails out of the toolbox. She closed her fingers tight around them, the metal biting into her skin. "What kind of business? You haven’t shown your face around here in years.” Not since that awful night.
When she straightened, Mitch's gaze still rested on her. "You understand why I haven’t been back," he stated in a low, steady voice.
She understood all too well. Through his haze of bitterness and grief, her father had threatened anyone named Quinn with a snoot full of buckshot if he so much as set one toe onto Dare land.   
"I’d like to say I’m sorry the old man’s dead but...”
Lexie thought of her father, Mason, buried on the ridge behind the house, and cursed him even as love expanded in her heart. She'd been desperate to heal the gap between them and ease the hurt from his disinterest that had plagued her all of her life, but his unexpected death had put an end to her desperation forever. Lexie hammered some nails into a loose board. "You haven’t answered my question."
            "The ranch is in bad shape."
She looked at the worn walls where golden fingers of sunlight trickled through the spaces in between the boards. "Dad fell apart after Parker died...drinking, gambling. But you know that. After you left town, the ranch went down hill fast, but I'm determined to bring it back up to speed. Parker would have wanted me to try." And she was determined to succeed.
            "He was a wonderful son of a bitch, your brother," Mitch said with a ring of sadness in his voice. "The best friend I ever had."
Lexie glanced at Mitch over her shoulder. "Impossible not to love him, wasn't it? He was such a scamp, but not a mean bone in his body. I wanted so badly to tag along with the two of you, but all I got for my trouble was a yank on my pony tail and a pat on the head.”
Despite his treating her like a pesky little sister, Parker had always been there for her when her father brushed her aside like an irritation. He would put his arm around her, lift her chin, and throw her a crooked grin. Often, he berated Mason on his insensitive treatment of her, but the old man's attitude toward her never changed.
Tears stung her eyes just thinking about the brother she’d loved and lost. "I miss him every day. Each time I go riding, or look out over the land, I still see him there. How could something he loved so much be the site of his horrible death?" Her voice cracked. She shuffled into the tack room and slid the toolbox onto a clear spot on the bottom shelf.
Parker's saddle still sat on the rack in the corner. She knew she should sell his tack or put his things into storage, but if she did she would close a door in her soul she wasn't ready to close.
Lexie bit her lip and choked back tears before crossing the alleyway to the feed room. She gathered pails to prepare the horses' dinner.
Mitch's voice drifted to her from outside the feed room. "Barn's full of horses. These all yours?"
She rejoiced over the occupied stalls, the bright faces of the horses that stared eagerly out at her each morning and evening but they weren’t all hers no matter how much she wished it. Training horses had kept her head above water.
Lexie filled the buckets with sweet feed and oats then placed a piece of raw carrot on top. She wiped her sweaty palms over her thighs as she stepped back into the alley way. "No, they’re not all mine. Why don’t you stop stalling and tell me why you’re here?"
"Why do you love the land so much?” Mitch asked ignoring her question. He leaned against the wall of the alleyway, crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to one side. "Why is the ranch so important to you?"
Her heart swelled with pride. "Because when you give to the land, the land gives back. I tried to give to my father, but he only took and never gave anything back. I give love and attention to the land and it flourishes.”
She gave love to her daughter and she flourished too. The land was in her blood. The ranch was a part of her like Dani was a part of her. She wanted a legacy to leave her daughter and she wanted Dani to know that no matter what happened in her life she always had a home.
What if the ranch were snatched away one day? What if she couldn't turn things around? What then? The thought of losing the land opened a cold, dark place inside her. As long as she kept the land, Parker's memory would remain alive.
"I know I can save this place if I put my mind to it.” She sighed and voiced the longings she held close in her heart. "I want to build back the herd and train championship horses and be totally self-sufficient. I want to make Dare Ranch one of the best working ranches in the state."
When she walked out of the feed room, Mitch was examining the barn. His gaze slid over the loose boards in the walls and scrutinized the cracked concrete of the alleyway, the worn and ragged condition of the stalls. After a moment, Mitch tilted his head and stared at the hayloft. A kind of stillness came over him; a slight smile played over his mouth. Quickly, his gaze shifted and fixed on her eyes.
He remembered.
Anxiety rose into her throat. She didn’t need to be reminded. Every time she came into the barn or looked into her daughter’s face, she remembered.   
To hide her reaction, she moved on to the next stall. The black mare called Morning Star nibbled at the latch on her stall, rattling the metal clasp against the wood until the door swung open. Aspen, next door, pushed his muzzle in her direction and blew softly in her face. Morning Star bobbed her head then nipped Aspen lightly on the nose.
Lexie skirted around Mitch standing by the door and stepped inside the stall. His woodsy male scent wafted past her and blended with the scents of the barn. Awareness curled in her stomach. She shook her head slightly and smiled to herself. You're not a teenager anymore, Lexie. Stop acting like one.
When she exited, Mitch closed the stall door. With practiced ease, he stroked his large hand over Morning Star's ebony coat.
"You're a pretty girl, aren't you?” His softly spoken words stirred Lexie’s memory. Mitch had said almost the exact same words to her that long ago night. He'd made her feel pretty, desirable and most of all, wanted.  

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