Monday, July 29, 2013

Orphan Trains and "A Partner's Promise"

The streets of eastern US cities were populated with thousands of homeless children in the Nineteenth Century. Imagine the misery of those little souls--starving, cold, living without love or dignity, being taken advantage of by heartless adults. Their suffering had to be more than any of us living in our comfortable homes in the Twentieth-First Century could imagine.

Fortunately for tens of thousands of displaced children, a man named Charles Loring Brace saw their suffering and did something about it. He organized one of the greatest social experiments ever undertaken. Brace created a society which offered a second chance to homeless children in the East via what came to be known as "orphan trains."

"A Partner's Promise" is a fictional account of the life of Axel O'Grady and how it was changed when he was convinced by a judge to leave New York on the orphan train.

"A Partner's Promise" was nominated for an EPPIE Award in children's literature, and it won a Recommended Read Award from "Fallen Angel Reviews." It is available in E-Book at Amazon, BN, I-Books, Kobo Books and Sony. Find the book in paperback at Amazon.

1880s, New York City. Caught Stealing...When homeless, orphaned Axel O'Grady steels a loaf of bread a judge gives him a choice--go to jail or take the Orphan Train from New York to Iowa to be placed out with a new family. Axel chooses Iowa, but he promises his best friend Nate Greenleaf he will return. And A PARTNER'S PROMISE can never be broken.


Setup: When Axel and his friend Nate are beat up by a bully, Nate is hospitalized, and Axel nurses his wounds in his furniture crate home, unable to work for his food. By the third day of his ordeal he is starving, and he reluctantly resorts to stealing a loaf of bread. He gets caught and, since he's old enough to be treated like an adult at age eleven, he's thrown into jail.

A large, cold, stone room smelling like liquor and human filth was Axel’s new home. The familiar, hideous odors he’d come to know from his life on the streets were even more sickening in jail.

Light filtered through a small window high on the back wall of his cell.

A dozen upper and lower beds lined the perimeter of the cell. He’d chosen an empty lower bunk when the jailer had brought him in. He curled up on the foul blanket and watched a half dozen pairs of eyes study and assess him.

“If you snore, boy, I’ll choke you till you quit,” a gruff voice uttered from above.

Axel turned his face to the wall. He’d never been any place as wretched as this jail cell. Yet even being thrown into this horrible, cold room was a worthwhile price to pay for having something to eat.

Laying on his back and staring between the slats at the stained mattress on the bunk above him, Axel decided he needed to think of something besides where he was and why he was there.

* * *

Axel appeared before a judge later in the afternoon the day he was arrested.

Judge Thomas, a stern-looking man with glasses and a mostly-bald head, studied a paper as Axel stood silently before him.

“This report says you stole a loaf of bread,” Judge Thomas said, peering over the top of his glasses at Axel. “Is that right, boy? Did you steal a loaf of bread?”

“Yes, sir,” Axel said, looking down and placing his hand over his stomach.

“Speak up, boy. I can’t hear what you’re saying!” Judge Thomas shouted.

Axel looked at the judge. “Yes, sir. I was very hungry.”

“Hungry, were you? That’s no excuse for breaking the law. If you want to eat, you should work for your bread. You young people must learn.” Judge Thomas stared hard at him. “What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. O’Grady?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I do work. I’m a newsie, but another boy beat up my friend and me and took our money. I have been too hurt to work. I ran out of food, and I was so hungry, sir.” Axel prayed Judge Thomas would accept his explanation and give him a chance to pay for the bread when he could work again.

“I’m not your mama, boy. Your problems are your problems, not mine,” Judge Thomas said firmly. “If you steal you go to jail. It’s as simple as that. Besides,” he added, running his gaze over Axel carefully, “if you got yourself beat up, it’s your own fault. You Irish are always causing trouble.”

Axel wanted to cause the narrow-minded judge some trouble right now, but he couldn’t. Instead, he swallowed back his anger and meekly replied, “Please, your honor, sir, please don’t send me to jail. I’ll pay for the bread.”

“I thought you didn’t have any money.”

“I don’t, but I’ll work again soon. I’ll pay for the bread when I can work again.”

“Not good enough,” the judge said, shaking his head. He looked at the papers before him. He rubbed his chin and thought a moment before he went on. “You got any folks?”

Axel shook his head. “My parents are dead.”

Judge Thomas nodded slowly. “I suspected as much,” he said, staring down at Axel over his glasses. He stroked his hand along his jaw and narrowed his focus on Axel. “Have you heard about the trains which take orphans west to be placed out in new homes?”

Axel not only sold newspapers, he read them too. He’d seen stories about city children finding new homes in the country. “Yes, sir, I know of them.”

The judge took off his glasses. “If you’ll agree to go to the Children’s Home and wait there to be sent west on the next train, I won’t send you to jail.”

Axel felt as though an anvil had fallen on him. Jail or leave New York City. How could he stand either one? No matter which he chose he’d have to leave Nate.

“Well, boy? What will it be?”

He decided there was only one choice he could make, and it wasn’t jail. “I’ll go to the Children’s Home, sir, and take the train west.” He spoke in a firm, decisive voice. He wanted to be sure the judge wouldn’t change his mind and put him back in jail.

“Fine,” the judge said, putting his glasses back on. He wrote something on his papers, and, when he finished writing, he looked up at Axel. “Don’t you try to run off,” he said, pointing his finger. “If I see you in this court again you’ll go to jail for sure.”

The judge promptly turned Axel over to a police officer and told him to take the boy to the Children’s Home right away.

I hope your week goes better than Axel's did...


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Male Fraud--In the Locker Room Excerpt

"What if a woman pretended to be a man in order to get a job as trainer with a pro football team," I thought, "and then fell in love with the coach?"

I loved the idea right away. As I began to imagine the kinds of problems that could arise under circumstances like these the idea developed into a very funny story filled with tense situations.

Of course, these circumstances aren't funny to the hero and heroine who are embroiled in some heavy emotions, but readers are having a great time watching these two deal with their challenging situation.

"Male Fraud" is available as a download at major Internet stores such as B&N, I-Books and others for 99 Cents. It's also available in the paperback "Romantic Comedy Collection" (which includes short stories "Married While Intoxicated" and "Crossed Wires") at Amazon for $7.95.

Terry Fiscus wants to be a trainer for the pro football Chicago Cyclones. Coach Dan Barringer doesn't believe a woman belongs in a men's locker room. Terry really, really wants this job so she disguises herself as a man, and Dan hires her. When Dan meets Terry outside of work and gets to know her as the lovely "Teresa" he falls in love, and so does Terry. As Terry tries to manage her double life things get extremely complicated and side-splittingly funny.

"In the Locker Room" Excerpt:

Setup: Female Terry Fiscus, the new trainer for the pro football Chicago Cyclones is disguised as a man--and she's made a few discoveries about being a woman pretending to be a man during her first week on the job.

As she policed her area of the locker room Terry realized the first week of training camp had gone by with lightning speed. She’d worked hard to keep her players as healthy as possible, and things had gone well most of the time.

The only thing giving her more trouble than she’d thought it would was getting used to the smells, sights and sounds in the locker room. Especially the sights!

Seeing naked men by the dozens was a completely new adjustment for her. At Nebraska, where she’d first worked as a trainer, the players knew she was a woman, and most of them would cover up if she was in the locker room. Now that Terry was one of the guys, she rarely saw a towel wrapped around a waist in modesty.

More than once the old story about the size of a man’s feet and his--


She looked at the coach who was standing in the doorway to his office.

“When you have a minute, I want to see you.”

“Sure thing, Coach.” She was getting used to using her fake deep voice, though it didn’t sound as gruff anymore since her cold had gone away.

The coach went back into his office, but Terry kept looking his way.

There was one other thing which had been giving her trouble since she started her new job. Coach Barringer.

Not that he’d been hard on her or anything, no harder than she’d expected anyway. The trouble she was having with the coach was entirely her own fault.

She found him terribly attractive. Whether he was a Neanderthal or not, she couldn’t help being practically giddy over him. Consequently, she’d avoided Dan as much as possible.

She’d learned rather quickly that one glance from him could melt her quite completely, and she couldn’t afford to liquefy around him.

At least not until she told him she was a woman.

She finished cleaning up her area and went to face Coach Barringer.

She knocked on his open door.

“Come in.” His voice was stern, commanding.

He was looking at a pad full of x’s and o’s when Terry entered his domain. Considering the crush she had on him, she blushed a little at the symbols for hugs and kisses which Dan was using to diagram offensive and defensive team members in plays he was designing.

This was the first time Terry had been alone with Dan in his office. All her meetings with him before this one had included other trainers, and they’d taken place in the conference room.

Dan looked up and pointed to a chair. “Take a load off, Fiscus. I’ll be with you in a minute.” He looked again at his pad of intricate plays, and made a few changes.

She seated herself in the black tweed armchair the coach had pointed to and waited for him to speak. The longer she waited the more intrigued she became with the handsome coach and his thick dark hair, angular jaw and broad, strong build.

His shoulders looked like they could hold the weight of the Sears Tower.

When minutes passed without him initiating the conversation, she decided to start it herself. “Is there a problem you wanted to discuss with me?” Considering the way she felt about him, being alone with him put her ill at ease. She wanted this meeting over with as soon as possible.

He looked at her with those bone-melting blue eyes of his and leaned back in his black leather, swivel chair. He tapped the pencil in one hand against the index finger of the other......

I hope your week is full of smiles and laughter.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"For Love of Maggie," an Excerpt

Readers, thank you so much for your positive feedback about the excerpts I've posted here. Because you like them, I'm going to post an excerpt from my Triple Award-Winning book "For Love of Maggie," a very inspiring contemporary romance. This book is available for 99 cents as a download and for $7.95 in paperback at Amazon

Kayla Franklin is instantly attracted to Roth Simons. He feels the same way about her, but when he meets Maggie, her daughter who has Down Syndrome, he is shocked by the child's condition. Roth will do anything to make amends for his initial reaction, but
will Kayla ever forgive him?


The beginning....Roth meets Kayla and experiences a powerful reaction to her.

Roth parked his truck under an elm tree in the farm yard and walked thirty feet to Kayla Franklin's front porch. He stopped at the bottom of the steps and watched as a woman on the far end of the porch struggled to move a heavy set of old wooden shelves.

She had short, light-brown, curly hair, and perfect pink skin. She groaned as she struggled with her heavy burden. Roth smiled at her determination and admired the curve of her jeans when the wind blew her light blue shirt off her hips.

She groaned again, and Roth decided it was time to give her a hand. He bounded up the steps and strode toward her. He stood directly behind her and pressed a hand against the shelving unit over her head. The shelves moved instantly.

“Whew,” she uttered. She spun around and looked up at him. “Thanks,” she said, panting and wiping her brow with her fingers.

The second her gaze connected with his, Roth felt his chest tighten. His eyes widened and his throat began to constrict. “You're welcome.”

She fidgeted from one foot to the other. Her eyes darted away from him before they returned to his bold stare.

He blinked and steadied himself with the hand which was still pressing against the shelving unit. “I'm Roth Simons. We had an appointment,” he said, managing to regain the breath she'd stolen from him.

She extended her hand. “Kayla Franklin.”

He grasped her hand with the one he’d had against the shelves. “Glad to meet you.” A thousand sparks ignited the nerves in his arm, and current traveled from her hand directly into his heart.

She didn't pull her hand back right away. Instead she stared up at him with an odd look on her face, one he couldn't specifically identify, but it looked an awful lot like the way he felt in his gut at that particular moment.

He reluctantly let go of her and placed his meaty palm high on the shelving unit where it had been before. “We had an appointment.”

“Yes, I know,” she said, blinking blueberry eyes at him.

“You talked to my partner J.T. Baskin a couple of days ago about a remodel project.” Roth reminded himself he was there to renege on J.T.'s agreement. He was just too darn busy to take on the Franklin job.

A warm April breeze blew a bronze curl off Kayla's forehead. “I can't tell you how pleased I am you've agreed to do this project for me. I've been trying for two months to find a carpenter who would take on this job. It's hard to get someone to do remodel projects. It seems most carpenters are looking for larger, more lucrative jobs.”

Roth swallowed hard. She was right. They are, and so was he. “About your project,” he began, working up the courage to cancel the job this lovely lady had expected him to do for her. “I'm not sure--”

She fidgeted again within the small space he'd allowed her between himself and the shelving unit behind her. “I am,” she said, smiling up at him. “I'm sure you will do a wonderful job. I can feel it.”

He pulled his hand from the shelves and straightened up. “What I'm trying to say, Ms. Franklin--”

“Call me Kayla. May I call you Roth?”

His gaze fell to her lips when she said his name. “I beg your pardon?” He wanted her to say his name again.

“I said may I call you Roth?”

He lifted his gaze back to the blueberries setting in perfect symmetry above her exquisite nose. “Of course.”

She folded her arms. “Would you like to sit down and discuss the project?”

You don't have time for this! Roth's common sense shouted. “Of course,” his overruling fascination with her forced from his lips.

As he followed her to the opposite end of her porch and sat in one of her cushioned chairs, he admonished himself for the weakness she'd caused inside him. He ordered himself to get on with refusing her work and getting off her property before he did something really stupid--like taking on her project or promising her anything she asked of him or taking her in his arms and satisfying his curiosity about the taste of her flawless, full lips.

Kayla glanced over her shoulder toward the barn after she seated herself in her chair. “I'm not sure where I should start,” she said, focusing on him. She laced her fingers and placed her hands in her lap.

Roth summoned a deep breath and lifted a hand. “I know exactly where to begin,” he said confidently. “I'm afraid I can't handle your project.” There. He’d said it. He’d made a clean break. It was all over.

She smiled and unlaced her fingers. She floated her delicate hands toward him and covered the forearm he’d laid on the armrest of his chair. “Don't be silly. I have complete confidence in you. If I didn't think you could handle the project, I never would have asked you or your partner to work for me.”

Roth looked down at her hands. Shock waves were traveling from her touch on his arm to his heart again. He pulled his arm away and lifted his gaze to meet hers. “That isn't what I meant. Of course, I'm capable of doing your project. I've been doing carpentry for thirty years, since I was ten years old. What I meant was…” He noticed disappointment touching the edges of her enchanting eyes.

Kayla Franklin was the most gorgeous woman he'd ever seen, and she was weakening his resolve to renege on J.T.’s promise. If he didn't distance himself immediately, he'd be agreeing to rebuild her entire farm free of charge. It'd be worth it just to be near her.......

"Write Touch Reader's Award," "More than Magic Award," CataRomance "Reviewer's Choice Award."

"For Love of Maggie" is available at: Amazon, I-Books, B&N, Sony, Kobo Books.

I hope your week is a wonderful one!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Freedom and America

Happy Birthday, USA!!

Freedom and the United States of America are synonymous around the world.

We who were lucky enough to be born in the USA are (or we should be) grateful to be a part of this great human experiment, started by bold, brave men (and supported by their women and children) more than 230 years ago.

In addition to securing our own freedom, the people of the USA have helped many others around the world to become free.

God made his people free. He gave us intellect and free will. I have no doubt He wants all of his children to be free--free to choose to do good and free to neglect to be good. Free to love the people of the world and help those who are hungry or unfree, and free to turn our backs on those in need. Free to offer kindness and compassion, and free to be unsympathetic to another person's suffering.

With freedom comes great responsibility, and, for that reason, it has been the duty and privilege of US citizens, along with our allies, to help others around the world throughout our history.

My fellow Americans, this Independence Day, as we celebrate the birth of our country, think about the free choices we're making as individuals and as a country. Pray that we always make the right choices for ourselves, our communities, our states and our country.

God Bless America!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Friday, June 14, 2013

FREE and 99 Cent Books

FREE and 99 Cent books are available for your reading enjoyment.

Check out these acclaimed stories at B & N, I-Books, Amazon, Sony, and Kobo Books.

Contemporary Romance

Married While Intoxicated -- Free

Crossed Wires -- Free

Male Fraud -- 99 Cents

For Love of Maggie -- 99 Cents

Stolen Son -- 99 Cents

Historical Romance

Resurrected -- Free

Change of Heart -- Free

Young People's Historical Novels

A Partner's Promise -- 99 Cents

The Trading Game -- 99 Cents



Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Beginnings

Memorial Day Weekend is said to be the kickoff of the summer season -- and don't those of us in the northern latitudes look forward to it!

The grass is finally green after a long winter, flowers are blooming and hearts are lifted by life renewing itself.

This year, for me personally, Memorial Day Weekend holds both joyous and sad days. On Saturday I'll be attending the wedding of a young man who is very dear to me. God bless him and his new wife with a long, healthy life and a wonderful family.

New beginnings are wonderful, so full of hope and promise.

On Monday I will remember my dear sister who passed away in April. We were very close, and I miss her more than I can say. Most of you, Dear Readers, have experienced this kind of loss, and you, too, will no doubt be setting aside time to remember your lost love ones as well as remembering the brave men and women who died fighting for the USA and the freedom we all enjoy.

My weekend begins on a happy day and closes on a sad one -- from new beginnings to an ending in this life. Yet, with the end of this life comes a new beginning in the next one, one that for our lost loved ones will be filled with unceasing joy.

God bless you with a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. May it be full of good times and good memories.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Liza's Trouble in "Recruited"

Book Four of the Tender Mysteries Series of Inspirational Historical Romance features Liza Green and Antonio Black. This book will be available in e-book and paperback in early June.

June, 1896: Liza’s accused of stealing fifteen hundred dollars, and Antonio seems to be the only person who can help her out of the mess she’s in--even though she doesn’t exactly trust the handsome private investigator.

Antonio believes Liza is as guilty as the prosecutor says she is, but, having been instantly smitten with the beautiful woman, he wants more than anything to find a way to get her acquitted of the charges against her.

Antonio devises a plan to prove Liza’s innocence by trying to connect the missing money to a ring of pickpockets who have been operating in eastern Nebraska. Despite the fact that he has every intention of running his investigation on his own, Liza, trusting her life to no one but herself, doggedly stays at his side.

Caught up in the adventure of dealing with pickpockets, train robbers and desperados, Liza is swept into romance as well, and, before long, she realizes she’s found something special with Antonio she hadn’t even known she’d been seeking.


Setup: Liza is meeting for the first time with handsome private investigator Antonio Black, hoping to get him to help her find a way out of the trouble she's in.

He took her arm and led her back to her chair. “Please, sit down and tell me everything about the case against you.”

She returned to her seat, and he returned to his.

She gazed at him silently for several moments before she spoke. “I have been working at Hoffman’s All Goods since I was sixteen, slightly more than three years,” she said. “Mr. Hoffman has been a wonderful employer, and, each year, he’s entrusted me with more and more responsibility.”

She realized she was twisting her fingers so she stopped the nervous habit before Mr. Black noticed it.

“Mr. Hoffman generally keeps receipts in his safe, and once every month or two a deposit is made into the store’s bank account.” She paused and took a calming breath. “For the last eight months he’s trusted me to give the books a thorough looking over every six to eight weeks. When I’ve finished my accounting, I take the cash and bank drafts from the safe and make a deposit at the bank.”

“That’s quite a bit of responsibility for a woman as young as you are,” Mr. Black interjected. “You’ve been entrusted with this duty for eight months now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Has Mr. Hoffman ever pointed out any problem with your work up to now?”

Liza shook her head. “Never.”

He waved his hand toward her. “Please, go on with your story.”

She bit the corner of her mouth and nodded. “A few days ago…” Liza swallowed hard as she recalled the day the money disappeared. “I was tallying up the receipts for the last two months. I reconciled the receipts with the cash and bank drafts, and I prepared everything necessary to make the bank deposit.” A knot formed in her stomach. “I left the store with the fifteen hundred and some odd dollars in the bag the Merchant’s Bank gave us to hold our deposits.” She glanced downward and paused. “I went straight to the bank,” she said, looking at him again, “and when I arrived the money was gone.”

He sat forward. “I beg your pardon?” His brows drew together. “Are you saying the money just disappeared?”

Liza looked down and nodded.

“Miss Green, look at me.”

She did as he commanded.

He leaned back in his chair. “Last year I went to see the performance of a magician named Harry Houdini. That’s the stage name of a man from Appleton, Wisconsin who recently began to entertain people with his amazing abilities.”

Liza scowled at him. “What has your attending a performance of a magician got to do with what we’re discussing?”

“Miss Green,” he said, tracing a line on his desk with his finger, “I don’t think even Houdini could make fifteen hundred dollars disappear from a bank deposit bag.”

She bolted to her feet. “I’ve never heard of Harry Houdini, nor do I care one whit about who the man is or what he does. I tell you, when I opened the bank deposit bag at the Merchant’s Bank there was nothing inside but cutup newspaper instead of the money and bank drafts I’d placed there.”

“Is this the story you’ve been telling the authorities?” he asked as he got to his feet.

“It is,” she replied firmly.

“Whew,” he said, brushing back his neatly-groomed short, curly black hair. “If this is what you intend to use as your defense, you might want to start studying up on Houdini’s techniques because the only way you’re going to get out of the binding situation you’ve gotten yourself into is by knowing some very clever methods of escape.”


Liza finds lots of trouble, and a treasured love, in "Recruited." Look for the paperback at Amazon and the e-book at all major Internet bookstores in early June.

Have another great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page