|A Heap of Trouble|
Lorrie Unites-Struiff, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Let's talk about your book, A Heap of Trouble
Genre: Western Romance, Action, Humor
Publisher: MuseItUP Publishing.
Cover artist: Suzannah Safi
Length: 150 pages
Heat rating: PG
Tagline: Sheriff Cole chases Mattie, who steals his heart, Beggar, a monkey who steals the townspeople's jewelry and a gang that steals cattle.
Sheriff Cole Walker is fearless-- except when it comes to critters. When a thieving, runaway, ringtail monkey decides to move in with Cole and won’t leave, he has more woes than he can handle.
Cole has a powerful yen for the newly arrived Mattie Wells, the pretty woman who can jingle his spurs with just a smile. Mattie takes a shine to men who have pets, and she adores the monkey—as does all the townsfolk. So, Cole must put up with the troublesome critter.
Mattie is holding a dark secret and refuses to get married. Cole pushes to pry out her secret and change her mind while harboring a secret of his own.
A gang of rustlers is roaming the hills and stealing the Double J’s cattle. JJ blames the farmers and an all out war is in the making. Cole and his deputies, Wade and Sully, are given a month to find the thieves before Mayor Farley calls for outside gunslingers.
Yep. Cole has a heap of trouble on his hands.
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Cole Walker 28 Sheriff of Cold Creek
Mattie Wells 22 Shopkeeper’s daughter.
Beggar, the runaway monkey. Who knows how old the imp is? Occupation- Petty thief.
Cole’s heart rate picked up a notch. Her honey-colored hair had been the first thing he noticed when she stepped off the covered wagon a month ago, how it gleamed like silk corn tassels in the sunshine. Her tiny waist and proper curves had sure jingled his spurs. “Afternoon, Miss Mattie,” he jumped to his feet. “Whoa, don’t come in. There’s a mighty dangerous critter under the desk.”
“A what?” Mattie hurried to look under the desk. “Oh, my, it’s a little monkey.” She crawled on all fours to reach for the varmint, offering Cole a tantalizing view of her frilly petticoat and pretty ankles. “Come here, you poor baby.”
“Miss Mattie, stop.” Cole rushed over, a palm on his pistol. “He might bite you.”
Mattie got to her feet, the monkey curled in her arms. “Oh, don’t be silly. He’s what they call a ringtail and he’s half-starved to boot. I had a school friend once whose dad was an Organ Grinder. He had bought one like this shipped in from South America.” Her eyebrows lifted, her eyes on his hand hovering over his pistol. “You weren’t really planning on shooting this little fella, were you?”
“Me?” He let out a chuckle and quickly hooked his thumb over his gun belt. “I’d never think of doing something like that.” He made a show of glancing around the room. “I was just sharin’ my lunch, but he sure made a darn mess of the place.”
She petted the monkey, cooing softly while it lay snuggled in her arms. She bit her lip her eyes twinkling. “Oh, I see. And now you’re sweeping up the scraps. How sweet.”
Cole shuddered at how she could handle the critter so easily. He tried to smile. “Yes, ma’am. Sure was. Cleaning the office and feeding him, that is.”
Her eyes narrowed as she inspected the creature closely. “This fella’s too thin, must not have eaten for a while.” She fingered the metal band around its neck. “We need something to wedge the clip lock off his collar.” A frown pulled at her mouth while her eyes scanned the office. “Oh, hand me that ring of keys hanging on the peg. You hold the monkey and I’ll work the ring under the clip.”
“Uh, you keep a hold of him. I’ll pry the clip loose. I mean since he’s so comfortable with you and all.” He snatched up the key ring and edged closer. His hands trembled. “Why we doin’ this for anyhow? Must be someone’s pet with this fancy collar.”
“Probably, but this collar has sharp edges. It scratches his neck.” She perched on the edge of the desk, holding the monkey firmly, exposing the lock.
Cole moved his hands slowly. “Ah, hold on to his head nice and tight now. We don’t want him wiggling.”
She giggled. “Don’t worry.”
Sweat beaded on his forehead, the heat rushing to his face nearly searing his eyebrows. He reached for the collar, his heart racing. The ring slid under the clip and he forced it up. It snapped open with a ping.
“Now pull the collar apart.”
He did. The collar pushed open wide enough for him to twist it off.
“Yeow!” Pain shot from his hand to his elbow. He dropped the collar as if he had grabbed the hot end of a branding iron. The metal band clunked and spun across the floor. He stared at the bloody strip streaking his palm.
“I told you it was sharp.” Mattie set the ringtail on the desk and led Cole to the basin of water sitting on the ledge in the corner. She soaped a cloth and bathed his palm while he glared at the monkey. Her soft, warm hands gave him a little tingle in his belly, until she poured the whiskey over the cut.
“Yeow!” Cole blew on his hand. He didn’t know which was worse, the cut or the unexpected whiskey wash.
The ringtail rubbed and stretched its neck, then clapped. Cole gave him a scathing look.
Mattie nudged Cole’s arm. “Oh, don’t be such a baby. Look, it’s hardly bleeding at all.” She wrinkled her nose and waved her hands to dispel the liquor fumes floating in the office.
Dang. She probably thinks I’m a jackass. He cleared his throat. “So, how’d you know ‘bout the hurtful collar?”
“When we lived in New York, I visited at my friend’s home. I saw how her father used the collar to train the ringtail by pulling on it with a chain to hurt the little thing.”
Cole glanced at the red streak on his palm. “That seems a downright mean way to treat a critter.”
“I agree.” Mattie huffed. “He said he did that to teach the monkey tricks. Why, he even tied the ringtail’s forearms behind his back to train him to walk upright. I thought it horribly cruel and near cried every time I went to her house.” Her white shirtwaist rose and fell with every angry breath.
“Where do you suppose this one came from then?”
“Must have escaped from that medicine show traveling south of us, that’s all I can figure. We heard about the show while you and your deputies were away tracking those rustlers.” She patted his palm with a dry towel. “You have any luck?”
“Sorry to say we never saw hide nor hair of the thieves. Wade and Sully are still camping out on the range. They’re gonna keep searching the hills beyond the river.”
Mattie folded the towel and set it back on the shelf. “Hope you find them soon so all this trouble will be over.”
“Me, too.” He cast another weary glance at the monkey and sighed. “That critter ate most of my lunch, but I guess even a mangy mutt deserves to eat once in a while.”
The monkey nodded and let out a burp.
Mattie laughed and tickled the varmint under his chin. “I did learn this little thing will eat both meat and fruit. At least my friend’s dad fed theirs well and kept it healthy.” She grabbed the broom and began sweeping up the scattered scraps.
Cole bent to pick up a half-eaten biscuit by the desk. The monkey climbed onto his shoulder and wrapped his furry arms around his neck. Cole choked back a yelp. Hot breath blasted his ear. He nearly jumped out of his skin and reached to throw the critter off, but Mattie was gazing at him with those adoring eyes.
“Oooh, how cute. He’s taken with you. They do love to be cuddled.”
He didn’t dare pitch him off. Cole gritted his teeth and stoically bore the beast, expecting to lose an ear to sharp little teeth. Tiny fingers plucked at Cole’s hair. His ear feeling a little safer, Cole paced the office and forced his shoulders to loosen up with each step.
The floor cleaned, the dirt and bits of food wrapped in brown paper, Mattie wedged the bundle of scraps under her arm.
When Cole passed the hat rack, a small arm plucked the Stetson from the peg and set it on his head. Mattie put her hand over her mouth, but he heard her muffled chuckle.
He stepped onto the boardwalk, the thick planks echoing with each step and sinking a little under his six-foot frame. Now that he finally got the critter outside, he hoped like heck it would scamper off to parts unknown. Instead, it stayed perched on his shoulder as he walked Mattie back to the mercantile her pa had bought from the last owners. The couple had upped and moved farther west to live with their son and his family.
Cole ran a quick scan over the two blocks of businesses down to the Sundance Saloon angled at the far end of town. Buckboards and horses lined the rails and teams tromped the street raising puffs of dust. People chatted in groups or went about their chores. Some of the buildings, like his office, provided living quarters on the upper floor. Behind the businesses, and across a small lane, stood weathered cabins and painted frame houses with shutters.
No drifters, pie-eyed cowhands, or fights in the making were in sight. All remained peaceful-like, which suited him just fine. He sure didn’t need any more problems today.
Old Baldy limped toward them, his stained apron hanging past his knees. He jerked to a stop, and his toothless mouth spread into a wide grin. He smacked his thigh. “I see you gots a new deputy there, Sheriff.” Baldy guffawed until his face turned pink, then he bent over to catch his breath.
Cole thought about shooting him, but instead gave the geezer a stone cold glare.
How did you get your start in the industry?
By writing short stories for ezines.
What is the most important thing you do for your career now, as compared to when you first started writing?
Promote my books. With short stories I didn’t really have to, but now I’m trying to get my name and my books out there to readers.
What websites do you visit daily?
Facebook, Pintrest, LinkedIn
If you could change something about your first book, what would it be?
Make it longer. I enjoyed writing it so much, I wish I had added more twists.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
It’s fun, at least for me. I can let my imagination have free rein.
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
Start writing now, stupid, while you’re young.
How do you cope with stress as an author?
Not well. Lol. There is always so much to do and not enough time in the day. Besides, I poop out fast.
Do things your family or friends do ever end up in a book?
Heaven’s no. They would lynch me.
What are some jobs you've done before (or while) you were a writer?
I was a gold medalist dancer/teacher/manager of a big name ballroom studio. Ah the good slim and trim days.
Which of your books would you recommend to someone who doesn't normally read your genre, and why?
A Heap of Trouble. It’s fun, has PG romance, action with cattle rustling, and a lot of humor with Beggar the monkey who is a petty thief. You can’t help but like the combination.
What do you think is the future of traditional publishing?
I wish I knew, but I do think e-books are the wave of the future.
What was the proudest moment of your life so far?
My grandson is a classical pianist and in his first year of college. He is gifted. He started older than most kids and is already number one musician in his school. To hear him play brings tears of pride to my eyes.
Imagine you get to go on a dream vacation, but you have only one hour to pack and leave, and it starts as soon as you finish this interview. What will you take with you and where will you go?
A little cabin in the woods. I’d take my computer, sloppy clothes, and be totally alone to write. Hmm. Better take some food with me, too.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
New Year’s Eve. I like to watch the ball go down. I sigh, lean back in the chair and think, ‘whew, I made it another year.’ I know. I’m strange.
What do you like to do when you're bored?
Watch the TV programs I have taped. I like many of them and thank goodness for DVR’s.
If your life became a movie, who would you want to play you?
Hmm. Tough one. Can I choose a young Kim Novak? Lol. Maybe I best go with the older one.
If you were a color, what color would you be?
Please underline which statement is more like you:
"I am a vacation spa because I am laid back and relaxed."
"I am a ten-countries in ten-days tour vacation, because I do things as fast as possible."
Please complete the sentences
I love pizza with mushrooms.
I'm always ready for a dinner out with friends.
When I'm alone, I love to do anything I feel like.
You'd never be able to tell, but I always laugh at myself when I do stupid things.
If I had a halo it would be tarnished.
If I could go a vacation I'd take a 90 day cruise and see the world.
I can never say no to a friend because I value them too much.
Books Coming Soon
My C.O.D. series. (Call on the Dead) 1&2 combined is out now. Three more to go, so far, in the series.
Find Me Here