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

Monday, May 6, 2013

"The Water's Fine" in "Montana's Magic"

"Montana's Magic" is the sequel to the popular contemporary romance "Montana Matched."

The fun continues in Montana, this time with a much younger couple. Neither C.R. nor Deanna are are looking for love but that doesn't mean it isn't going to sneak up on them anyway.

Had C.R. Whitmore been struck by lightning? Had the polar axes of the earth shifted? Or was it merely the smile of the exquisitely lovely Deanna Worthington that had doused him with the feeling that everything in his world had suddenly changed?

Whatever it was, C.R. needed to set his emotions aside as best he could. He had a secret mission on the Ruskin ranch, and nothing could deter him from reaching his goal.

Deanna had traveled from Peoria to Montana for two reasons: one, she wanted to help her sister Catherine with her new baby, and, two, she wanted to finish writing her Master’s thesis.

Her plans for the summer had seemed simple enough--until she met Cade Robert Whitmore…

Hand in hand walks in the open meadows, horseback riding through pristine wilderness, moonlight swims in secluded waters…

Deanna supposed, when it came to handsome cowboys, it was okay for a girl to change her summer plans, but would it be worth the risk to her career and her heart?


Setup: C.R. is giving Deanna a tour when they end up at his favorite place on the ranch.

“You like to swim, don’t you?” C.R. said enthusiastically.

He’d led her to a quiet lagoon which branched off the river. “I love swimming.” She’d gotten rather warm during their hike--from the exertion of the walk and from being with C.R. A swim in this magnificent pond seemed mighty tempting.

“I had a feeling you would.” He moved quickly to a nearby hollowed-out tree, lying on the ground and retrieved a duffle bag. He opened it up and pulled out a large towel. “I come here every chance I get so I try to keep extra clothes and towels around in case I want to come straight from the range. Nothing makes a person feel more alive than a swim in the river.”

Deanna clapped her hands together. “Oh, what fun! How lucky you are to have a place where you can swim whenever you want.”

“Well,” he said, “it isn’t always easy to fit a swim into my day. I’m usually awful busy with work during the warm months when swimming here is most pleasant.”

“I’m sure you are.” She walked right up to the water and stuck her hand into it. “Is it safe to swim here? The pond looks calm enough, but the river is rushing pretty fast.”

He joined her at the water’s edge. “It’s perfectly safe.”

Deanna stood up and tugged at the large, unbuttoned shirt she’d worn over her tank top and shorts. “Ooh, I’d love to jump right in, but I don’t have a bathing suit with me.”

He took her hand and gave her a naughty grin. “Neither do I.”

She smiled back at him as all sorts of wicked thoughts raced through her mind.

She’d been skinny dipping before, but not since she was eight years old. She’d certainly never gone swimming in the nude with a man.

She pondered her situation a moment longer. Then, without further hesitation, and going completely against her usual cautious nature, she decided, why not?

“C.R.,” she said, taking off her shirt, “I’d love to go swimming with you.”


"Montana's Magic" is available in paperback with "Montana Matched" -- one book, two novels -- at Amazon. The E-Book edition of "Montana's Magic" is available at: Amazon, B&N, I-Books, Sony Bookstore, Kobo Books, and other places on the Internet.

I hope something wonderful touches your life this week.

God bless you, Dear Readers.


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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Secret Hideaway in "Montana Matched"

"Montana Match" was the first book Avalon Books published for me. Being newly published was very exciting, and I enjoyed every minute of the process.

More than ten years have passed since my first novel was published, and "Montana Match" has morphed into "Montana Matched." The new edition is about ten thousand words longer, updated and even more fun to read than the initial well-received contemporary romance was.

Attracting a woman has never been a problem for wealthy, handsome Montana rancher Jake Ruskin, but finding a woman to marry…that’s quite a different dilemma.

Fortunately, Chicago matchmaker Becky Montoya, whom many happy clients have called the best in the business, has promised Jake she can find him precisely the kind of woman he’d like to marry.

Becky’s been dreaming of expanding her business, and, once she finds Jake his perfect mate, she’ll be able to do just that with the windfall fee he’s promised her. Considering the amount of money involved, Becky flies to Montana to handle every detail of the Ruskin case personally.

To her surprise, she soon finds her personal dealings with Jake have become a bit too intimate, and, before long, sworn-single Becky is beginning to wonder--should she give in to her feelings for her handsome cowboy client or should she fly straight back to Chicago before she breaks every moral rule she’s ever believed in?


Setup: Caught in a rainstorm, Jake and Becky spend the night in a country cabin.

Becky awoke as the first rays of light filtered through the windows. She didn’t know where she was at first, but it didn’t take her long to remember she was in the little cabin in the beautiful meadow--alone with Jake.

As she surveyed her surroundings she caught sight of her handsome host.

He lay cramped on the tiny sofa half naked and deadly asleep. Her gaze drifted from his handsome face to the black and gray curls covering his well-built, expansive chest. She watched his ribs expand and contract.

Her cheeks burned as she remembered the looks, the touches, the embraces she and Jake had shared over the last days. She thought about the first night she was with him and recalled how he’d engulfed her cheeks with his hands. They’d dropped the “Mr. Ruskin” and “Miss Montoya” titles as they’d gazed at the stars, the horses--and each other. They were Becky and Jake that night, not a matchmaker and a client, just a man and a woman.

She’d wanted him to hold her, touch her, kiss her. He almost had kissed her the very first night they were together.

He’d wanted to be with her too. He hadn’t tried to hide his interest in her.

Last night--Becky sighed and pulled the quilt to her chin.

She had no idea how they got through last night without getting close. Each of them half clothed, alone and vulnerable with nothing to keep them out of each other’s arms but their own restraint, she’d feared they’d get much closer than they should have.

She’d tried to shield her desire for him, but Jake was a very intuitive and intelligent man. She had no doubt he was as aware of her attraction to him as she was of his attraction to her.

If she hadn’t fallen asleep--passed out was more like it--on the sofa…

She bolted forward. She’d fallen asleep on the sofa!

Her cheeks began to burn again when she realized Jake must have carried her to bed.

She closed her eyes.

The thought of her half-dressed body being pressed into that magnificent, bared, masculine chest sent heat rushing through her.

A deep groan from the couch prompted Becky to gaze at Jake again. She watched him raise his arms over his head. He stretched and wriggled as his eyes slowly opened. “Becky?”


"Montana Matched" is available in e-book at Amazon, B&N, I-Books, Kobo Books, Sony Bookstore and other places on the Internet. The paperback will be available in a couple of weeks at Amazon in a two-book edition along with its sequel "Montana's Magic."

I hope your April was good and your May will be even better.


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

Friday, April 19, 2013

Retribution, an Excerpt

Dear Readers, I thank you for your wonderful feedback on "Resurrected" and "Restitution," the first two books of the new Historical Romance "Tender Mysteries Series."

However, according to you, "Retribution," the third book of the series, is your favorite. (It's my favorite too! -- at least until the next books come out later this year and next.)

"Retribution" is a powerful story with an amazing, totally gripping confrontation that takes place when a gun-wielding Susan faces the man responsible for kidnapping her younger sister Bonnie.

April, 1896: Susan Willet vows to capture and boil in oil the man who’s kidnapped her sister Bonnie.

Sheriff Sam Feist realizes Susan is a passionate woman. Her feisty verve is one of the things he finds most attractive about her. However, when she insists on going after a ruthless kidnapper, he’s got no choice but to tell her to stay out of lawmen’s business.

Susan promptly ignores the handsome sheriff’s advice. No one is going to stop her from going after Bonnie. Neither will anyone hinder her from keeping her pledge to seek retribution for her sister’s kidnapping.

As Susan and Sam separately pursue a dastardly abductor, they cross paths. Tensions soar, and hearts break when dangerous liaisons put lives in peril and lead to a violent confrontation which changes Susan’s life forever.


Setup: Susan and Sam have crossed paths on their separate pursuits of the kidnapper.

He’d expected she might pull her hand away, but she didn’t. Instead, she squeezed his hand tightly and let him take her safely away from the campsite and onto the road.

When they’d walked west and covered about fifty yards along the road he asked, “Are you feeling better now, Miss Willet?”

“Maybe…I don’t know…” She let go of his hand, stopped walking and looked up at him.

In the dim moonlight, below the twinkling stars and scattered clouds, she was more beautiful than ever. Her lovely auburn hair, which had been wet from a fresh washing when he’d held her earlier, had dried into a mass of soft curls, framing her face in a most elegant way.

“I don’t expect I’ll begin to feel better until Bonnie is safely home.”

He touched her chin. “I wish I could take away your pain. You don’t deserve to suffer another loss, not after all you’ve been through.”

She turned away from him. “Never mind my pain. It’s Bonnie’s sufferings I’m concerned about,” she said, looking at him again. “We’ve got to bring her back! I’ve got to see to it she’s home with us again.” She spun away and folded her arms. “Oh, why didn’t I go to the school to meet her?”

She suddenly bent over and began to retch.

Sam went straight to her and held her hair away from her face until she finished being sick.

“Please, Miss Susan,” he said, placing an arm around her shoulders when she straightened up, “you’ve got to stop second guessing your actions. You did nothing wrong. The man who took Miss Bonnie is evil, and evil does what it desires. You couldn’t have stopped him.”
She pulled a frilly hanky from the pocket of her pretty dark green dress and wiped her mouth. “I suppose you’re right.” She sighed and returned her hanky to its home.

She took him by surprise when she turned inside the embrace of the arm he had around her shoulders and wrapped her arms around him.

Instinctively, he held her close.

“I’m cold,” she said as she laid her head on his shoulder. “I’m cold and tired, so cold and tired. I haven’t felt this spent since Deborah, Molly and I endured the misery of recovering the lifeless bodies of our family members after the flood.”

Sam tightened his hold on her and closed his eyes as a queasy feeling stirred in his belly. Dear heaven, she’d had to participate in recovering the blanched, hard bodies of her family and friends after the flood had destroyed the wagon train? She was still a child back in eighty-eight!

He stroked her hair as he realized he was holding the strongest woman God had ever created.

“If you’re cold, Miss Willet, we’d better return to camp. It’d be best if you put on your wool coat and snuggled into your pallet for the night.”

The last thing Sam wanted to do was let go of her, but she needed a bed and a night’s sleep more than she needed anything else. If she could get some rest she’d feel much better.

He reluctantly eased her out of his arms and took her hand. Without saying another word he led her toward the campsite.

To his surprise, Miss Elizabeth met them about twenty yards from the fire. She was bubbling with excitement.

“She left us a clue!” she exclaimed. “I searched the history book, and I found a clue from Bonnie. I know exactly where she’s been taken!”


"Retribution" is now available in e-book at: Amazon, B&N, I-Books, Kobo Books, Sony and other places on the Internet. The paperback edition will be available later this spring.


Best wishes for a good week!


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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Tribute to my Sister, Arlene

Dear Readers, I'm going to pause from posting excerpts from my books in order to pay tribute to my sister whom I lost to cancer last week.

Arlene and I were very close, and I don't know how I'm going to get along without her. She was a hard-working, highly successful single mother who was devoted to her children.

Though we came from a large farm family of meager means, both Arlene and I, along with one of our brothers, fulfilled our dreams of becoming college graduates. All three of us paid our own ways through school, me until I completed my bachelor's degree, Arlene until she'd finished her master's degree and our brother completed his doctorate. Both of our parents had only eighth grade educations.

Arlene taught school at a small college for a while before she began a career in accounting. Eventually, she became the vice president of business at a college, where she worked until she was too ill to continue.

Her children, now aged 29 and 30, are both college graduates. One of them has just completed her master's degree, the other has a bachelor's degree.

During her last few months with us, her children took very good care of her. They were at her side throughout her illness and with her when she died.

Arlene loved babies, and, whenever a colleague or a coworker's family member would bring a baby into work, she set everything aside to take time to hold the baby. She'd always hoped that when she retired she could volunteer at a hospital in the pediatric ward.

When I think of Arlene now, I will see her in heaven, sitting in a white chair, smiling on a baby as she holds the little soul in her arms. I wish babies never had to die, but sometimes they do, and now, until their mommies and daddies join them in heaven, Arlene will hold them and coo to them and love them as though they were her own.

And that's a whole lot of love.

Fran's Web Page

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Restitution," Amy's First Drink Excerpt

Running off with a handsome stranger is hardly something Amy McKittrick would do under ordinary circumstances.

Yet, In "Restitution," the second book of the new Historical Romance "Tender Mysteries Series," that's exactly what Amy does!

Excerpts continue with a great one from "Restitution" this week.

November, 1895. Hope Nebraska. For years Amy has been trying to make amends for a crime she’d committed when she was fifteen years old. She’s doggedly, habitually avoided sin since that one infraction, but when Diego comes to town making all kinds of horrible accusations she finds herself lying over and over again. Alone with him in the countryside, on the trail of a thief, as Amy succumbs to Diego’s charms, she feels worse than ever for misleading him, even as she begins to feel whole again by loving him.

(About the “Tender Mysteries Series:” After a flood annihilates a wagon train in 1888, eleven female survivors build a life in Hope, Nebraska.)


Setup: Amy has hurt her ankle during a snowstorm, and they've taken shelter in a cave.

Diego scooped her into his arms, stood and held her tightly against his chest.

She laid her head on his shoulder and forced herself to remain silent, though the pain coursing through her ankle and leg made her want to cry out.

When he reached the bed he’d made for her, Diego somehow managed to get to his knees and gently place her on the wool-covered pine boughs.

“Dear God,” Amy cried, “it hurts so much.”

Diego quickly covered her with two blankets. He tucked them tightly around her as he’d done with Flossie.

As soon as he finished, he went to a bag of supplies he’d piled with the other saddles a few feet away. He returned momentarily with a flask. He moved the lamp he’d left near Amy’s bed, came close beside her and handed her the flask.

“Drink this. It’ll ease the pain,” he said.

“What is it?” Amy asked.

“It’s whiskey.”

“But I’ve never--” A surge of pain assaulted her again, cutting off her words.

“Please, Miss McKittrick, take a big drink. It’ll burn a little, but you’ve got to swallow it down.”

Amy opened the flask and put it to her lips.

She closed her eyes and drank heartily.

Fire burst inside her mouth, down her gullet and into her stomach.

“This tastes almost as bad as the coffee you gave me this morning,” she said wryly as she struggled to endure the pain of her injury and the burn of her medicine.

Diego smiled at her. “I guarantee it’ll be just as effective, only in a different way.”

He reached for the lamp and took it to the foot of her bed.

“Take another swig of whiskey, Miss McKittrick. I’ve got to remove your shoe and look at your ankle. The more whiskey you can take in before I tend to your injury, the less pain you’ll feel when I examine you.”

Amy took another big drink. She was surprised to find it less offensive than it had been the first time she’d drunk it.

“Take in some more, missy, at least another swallow or two,” Diego said as he sat at her feet.

She drank again. This time she didn’t mind the flavor of the libation at all. In fact, she found it pleasant, pleasant enough to take a bit more.

Diego watched as Amy drank from his flask. He was sicker at heart than he’d ever been, seeing her injured the way she was. Thank heaven he had something to give her to relieve her pain.

“It tastes a li’l better now, Misser Consillo,” she drawled.

The slurring of her words told Diego it would now be safe to remove her shoe and examine her injury.

He began his work immediately.

As he looked closely at her ankle, once he’d removed her shoe, he felt a knot form in his gut. He didn’t like what he saw.

He covered her feet with the blankets and move round her pallet to talk with her.

“Did you fix my ankle a’ready?” she asked when he sat next to her. “It doesn’t hurt anymore. I think you fixed it.”

Diego took the flask from her. He picked up the cap which had fallen from Amy’s fingers onto her belly and returned it to the mouth of the flask.

He lifted the top of her blanket. “Put your arms inside, Miss McKittrick,” he said gently. “You need to warm up as best you can.”

“But I’m feelin’ much warmer now,” she said, smiling at him.

Her smile was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen--but he couldn’t think about her loveliness now.

“I’m glad you feel warmer, but we need to be sure you stay good and warm,” he said, helping her put her arms inside the covers.

“I’m good, Misser Diego, and I’m warm too, I think. And my ankle har’ly hurts at all…I think I could dance, if I wanted to… Do you want to dance?”

If he hadn’t been so worried about her injury, he’d have found her state of inebriation quite humorous.

She pulled an arm from the shelter of her blankets and reached toward him. “I don’t like your brother, Diego. He isn’t a very nice man, but you…you…you’re not as bad as he is, are you?”

He took her hand and tucked it under her blanket. He secured her in her covers so snuggly she looked like a very beautiful, living mummy--even if the description was a contradiction in terms.

He grasped her chin with his fingers. “Miss McKittrick, I’m going to examine your ankle again.” He wanted to see how much the swelling had increased since he’d removed her shoe.

“Okay…,” she said, sounding as though she didn’t care one way or the other just what he did to her.

He moved to the foot of the bed and positioned himself by the injured foot. He uncovered it and examined it. The entire ankle, part of the calf and some of the foot had swollen significantly since he’d removed the shoe.

“Is my ankle alright now?” Amy asked in a dreamy tone.

“Not yet,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll need to get some snow to put on it to keep the swelling down.

“If you think it will help…”

“I’m sure it will,” he said. He moved straight to the stack of supplies and found the leather pouch in which he carried tools and other items which tended to come in handy when a man rides a trail. He emptied its contents onto the floor of the cave and went outside to fill it with snow. Upon his return he placed the pouch on Amy’s ankle.

“That’s cold,” she said.

He went to her and sat next to her. He took off his hat and gloves and set them next to her pallet. He trailed his fingers over her forehead. To his relief, he found she had no fever--yet.

“Mm,” she said, “that feels nice.”

His belly tightened. He’d wanted to touch her this way ever since he first saw her. She was a striking woman with eyes like emeralds and lips like ripe cherries.

“Mr. Consillo?”


“My ankle…it’s hurting again,” she said. She began to shiver.

Diego’s concern for her wellbeing escalated. He knew it was necessary to keep a person warm and comfortable after an injury. Her shivering was not a good sign. It could mean a fever was getting started.

Or she could be cold due to the snow pack he’d placed on her ankle.

He went to the supplies, retrieved the last blanket, and returned to Amy’s side.

She was shivering even more vigorously.

He placed the extra blanket over her, but she continued to quake.

The only thing left to do was to try to warm her with his own body heat.

He removed his coat, pulled back the covers and got into her bed with her.

“Mr. Consillo,” she said through chattering teeth. “Get away from me,” she said softly, her voice weakened by the strength of the liquor.

“I’m sorry, Miss McKittrick, but I’ve got to warm you up as quickly as I can. Please, lie still so you don’t disturb the snow pack I’ve placed on your foot. And don’t…don’t fight me; let me warm you. Can you do that, please?”

“Mr. Consillo,” she said, sounding sober, though he knew she was not, “tomorrow, when I’m feeling better, I’m going to slap your face as hard as I can for violating me in this way.”
Her threat sounded quite convincing, yet, he couldn’t help but smile upon hearing her warning. She was no bigger than a sapling and no stronger than bumble bee.

“If it’ll make you feel better, Miss McKittrick, I promise I’ll offer my jaw to you as soon as you’d like to take out your revenge on me,” he said.

To his surprise, she snuggled closer to him. “Why thank you. And, even though it will not make you feel better, I’ll accept your jaw, and I’ll bruise it quite effectively with a swipe of my hand…”

He chuckled as she drifted off to sleep.

She was no longer shivering, but Diego continued to hold her anyway.

He figured if he was going to be properly slapped in the morning by this lovely woman, he might as well earn his punishment by holding her a little while longer.


"Restitution" is available in e-book and paperback at: Amazon, B&N, Kobo Books, I-Books, and at bookstores and libraries.

Happy Easter to all my Christian Readers. Best wishes for a wonderful Spring for Everyone.


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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Resurrected--an Excerpt

Dear Readers, thanks for your interest in excerpts from my books. I'll be posting a few of them during the upcoming weeks.

"Resurrected," the first book in my new Historical Romance "Tender Mysteries Series," is featured this week. "Resurrected" is available for FREE as a download at Amazon, B&N, the I-Books store, Sony, Kobo Books and other places on the Internet. This book is also available in paperback.


Deborah couldn’t believe she was sitting at a table in the middle of Hope, Nebraska’s Town Square pretending to be Steven Paxton’s sweetheart. Of all the silly ideas which had ever been concocted by any human being since the time of Adam and Eve, this had to be the silliest.

“You should always wear pale blue and white, Miss Deborah. You look quite fetching in those colors,” Steven said smoothly.

“You don’t need to say things a beau would say,” Deborah said complacently. “Our charade requires only that you act like we’re lovers, not that you speak as though we were.”

“Forgive me. I’m doing my best to play the part. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Offend me? You didn’t offend me, Mr. Paxton. I just wanted to let you know flirtatious flattery isn’t necessary. You aren’t really my beau. You need only to look like you’re my beau by your actions when we’re in public.”

“Yes, of course,” he said, inclining his head in her direction.

Deborah turned her attention to the people and the setting surrounding her. She inhaled the scent of roses from a nearby flower bed and the fragrance of popcorn being roasted in a big kettle a few feet away.

She carefully scanned the crowd, hoping to eye at least one of the people from the list she and her sisters had compiled of the suspected thieves.

“Do you see anyone we’re looking for?” Steven asked.

She shook her head. “Not yet.” Rather than looking at him as she spoke, she continued her perusal of the folks gathered in Town Square.

For several minutes neither she nor Steven spoke. The silence put her at ease. If Steven wasn’t speaking, if he wasn’t delving into her soul with those scrutinizing blue eyes of his, she wouldn’t have to admit to herself just how unsettled her emotions became whenever he was nearby.

“Mr. Paxton, do you think if we--” She stopped speaking when she felt his hand on hers. “What are you doing?” she asked, looking at him in shock.

“I’ve taken your hand so I can hold it the way a beau would,” he said, grinning at her.

“It’s unseemly.” The feel of his warmth against her gloved hand flustered her more than his soul-searching eye contact had when he’d come by the house to collect her earlier.

“A beau taking his lady’s hand is perfectly appropriate, Miss Deborah.”

She shook her head. “This just doesn’t seem right.”

“Yet, you’ve not withdrawn your hand, have you?”

She gave her hand a slight tug, and he tightened his grasp.

“Do you want me to let go of your hand?” he asked softly.

His searing eye contact heated her from crown to soles.

“N-no, I suppose not. I did say we should do things a couple would do, but don’t…don’t you dare say things a beau would say.”

“Never again.”

She gave him a steadfast nod. “Good.”

Another attractive grin touched his lips before his gaze left her and settled on the crowd of people around them.

“Isn’t that short, skinny boy with the round face, mussed-up brown hair and glasses standing near the willow tree Albert Anderson?”

Deborah looked to her left at the lad in the blue plaid shirt and black pants. Her broad brimmed white chapeau with the blue ribbon shaded her eyes from the bright afternoon sunshine. “He’s the Anderson boy alright.”

“He looks harmless enough at the moment.”

“Retarded or not, he’s usually well behaved at public events, but, still, we should keep an eye on him. He could be our thief. He’s taken an uncommon interest in several of our things.”

“I don’t suppose he can get into much trouble eating ice cream at a social,” Steven speculated.

“Let’s hope not,” she said, hoping the boy wasn’t the thief. Considering his mental shortcomings, life had to be difficult enough for the boy without getting into trouble with the law.

A flash of red on her periphery caught Deborah’s attention, and she immediately turned to determine the source of the bright color. Seeing Albert had put her senses on alert, and the presence of one suspect reminded her of the purpose of being at the social with Steven.
Marcie Wilhelm, another suspect, dressed in a bright red, form-fitting dress, stood a few yards away gazing at Deborah. She nodded and twirled her red and white parasol when Deborah caught her eye. “It’s Marcie.”

“Where?” Steven said.

“There, near the man with the handlebar mustache, white shirt and black bow tie.”

Steven glanced in the direction Deborah had indicated. “Do you mean that lovely blonde woman dressed in red is the despised Marcie Wilhelm Susan wants to torture?”

Deborah tugged Steven’s hand, and he looked at her. “She only wants to torture her if she’s taken our mother’s cameo.”

“Yes, of course.” Steven glanced at Marcie again. “I hope she’s not the thief. I’d hate to see any harm come to her. She’s a very beautiful woman.”

His complimentary declaration regarding Marcie set Deborah’s stomach on fire. Humph, she thought, I’m fetching, but she’s beautiful?

“I suppose she is, if you like that kind of girl.”

“What man wouldn’t?”

Deborah jerked his hand. “What did you say?”

Ooh, she hadn’t meant to add such an annoying tone to her words. In fact, she hadn’t meant to say the words out loud at all. She sounded and, worse yet, felt like a jealous shrew when she had no reason to be jealous at all. She and Steven were not sweethearts.

“I said Miss Wilhelm is a beautiful woman, the kind most men would find quite attractive--even men who were in love with someone else altogether.” He tilted his head, a gesture she found terribly attractive, and grinned at her. “A fact is a fact, Miss Deborah, and the fact is that Miss Wilhelm is a lovely lady. Surely you can’t argue against evidence anyone can plainly see,” he said, leaning his head in Marcie’s direction.

Deborah glanced at Marcie briefly before settling her gaze on Steven again. “You’re absolutely correct. Marcie Wilhelm is beautiful.”

“That’s all I’m saying,” he said with a wave of his hand.

“But she might just be a black-hearted thief too!”

God bless all of you, Dear Readers, with a wonderful week.


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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Love Stories

Love stories have always been popular because everyone can identify with them. We all want to give and receive love.

I write and read romances which are good, old-fashioned, classic love stories, novels with compelling stories and lots of sexual tension between the man and woman, but without explicit sex, the kind that would make you blush if you read it aloud to your young daughter or granddaughter. These "sweet" romances are like "PG" or "PG-13" movies, as far as sexual content is concerned.

Sweet romances are getting harder and harder to find, even though many Readers prefer this type of love story. There are, however, a number of writers like me who continue to provide classic romance, high in conflict and sexual tension, but low is explicitness.

Any good love story, whether is "PG" or "R," is made up of the following:

1. The hero and heroine of a love story must be highly attracted to each other, physically and emotionally.

2. At least one major obstacle must stand in the way of their being able to be together. The conflict may be either exterior, (happening outside of the individual, such as in Romeo and Juliet's family issues) or interior (a woman who was terribly hurt by a first husband might be afraid to trust a man again).

3. An external force must cause them to have to be together. (Example: a child goes missing. The heroine is the detective on the case, the hero is the widower whose child is missing)

4. Emotion is key in a love story--love, hate, regret, longing, sorrow, misery, laughter, anger--but it should never be contrived. The emotion must be natural to the characters and realistic in the way the plot is developed.

5. As the hero and heroine struggle to defeat the external force causing them to be together, a relationship grows between them. It might begin with a sense of loathing for each other, even though there's plenty of sexual chemistry between them, but it eases into mutual respect, friendship and eventually true love by the time they finally defeat the external force and decide whether or not they should be together. (The widower of the missing child in the example above might blame the detective for not doing enough to find his missing child, but, as they work together, they begin to respect each other, find common ground, friendship and realize their mutual admiration has blossomed into true love.)

6. The hero and heroine must be loveable to the Readers as well as to each other--but they must not be perfect. They should have flaws, sometimes major flaws, and they must struggle to overcome their shortcomings and thus be worthy of loving and of being loved.

7. Most Readers prefer a "happily ever after" ending. I know I do. But it isn't necessary to end a romance that way. A few writers have found a following by writing stories which end in tragedy. Every author who writes love stories must decide which type of ending they want to give their Readers, and their Readers will decide whether or not it's the type of ending they want in their love stories.

I hope your March, 2013 is filled with a special love story of your own...


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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thanks, Readers

I'm interrupting my series on plots this week to take time to thank Readers for the wonderful feedback you've given me for my new "Tender Mysteries Series" in Historical Romance.

Thank you for acquiring the books in this series, and thanks for your kind words of appreciation. I'm so glad you've been enjoying "Resurrected," "Restitution," and "Retribution."

"Recruited," the fourth book in the series will be available this spring in e-book and paperback.

"Ricochet" and "Relentless" will be out towards the end of the year in e-book and paperback.

Remember, the first book in the series, "Resurrected," can be downloaded for FREE just about everywhere. Amazon is still charging 99 cents, but they will price match with other sites if you tell them about the lower price.

We have less than a month until it's spring in the northern hemisphere, and are we looking forward to it!

I hope all of you, Dear Readers, have a wonderful rest of February, and I'll be back with one or two more plot discussions in March.

God bless you,


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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rivalries and Underdogs

Rivalry and underdog plots are similar. An underdog plot is always a rivalry plot, in fact, but a rivalry plot is not necessarily an underdog plot.

In both story lines there is competition between the protagonist and the antagonist. In an underdog plot, the hero is in a diminished circumstance, in some way lower than the antagonist. For example, in the classic movie "Rocky" the hero is clearly on a much lower level in boxing than Apollo Creed the champion fighter who challenges the "local boy" to a legitimate boxing match.

In a straight "rivalry" plot, the foes are on a level plain. They may have different skills which they will employ in the competition, but they are equal as competitors on the whole. The sequels to "Rocky" are rivalry stories rather than underdog story lines because, in the end of the first movie, the hero has raised his status to the same level of other boxing champions.

The competition in a rivalry or an underdog plot may be an actual contest like a boxing match, bowling competition or a bake off, but it can also be a competition for something less tangible.

For example, every version of "Cinderella" is an underdog story, and the competition is always about love and marriage. The movie "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson is in many ways a rivalry story with the competition being between the British soldier who shot the American farmer's son and the American farmer (Gibson). The two main characters in this movie, though in different circumstances, are on an equal playing field.

In both rivalry and underdog story lines the protagonists and antagonists are fighting for the same thing. (Apollo Creed and Rocky want to win the boxing match. The British soldier and the American farmer want to win control of the United States, either for Britain or for America.)

Both kinds of stories have three essential stages, much like other types of plots.

In the first stage of rivalry and underdog stories the hero and villain are living their normal lives when the antagonist instigates something which challenges the protagonist. In the beginning phase of the story the antagonist gets the upper hand which leads the protagonist to react and prepare for the competition which will begin in the second stage of the story.

The second stage of the rivalry and underdog plot is all about the rising and descending power of the two main characters. Though the protagonist usually takes quite a beating during this phase of the story, he does enjoy a few victories.

The third stage brings the showdown between the villain and the hero. This is the grand competition. Everything which has happened up to this point has led to this confrontation. Rocky has spent all of his time training for the fight. The American farmer has sacrificed everything and, at last, faces the man who murdered his son and wants to take away the freedom of his countrymen.

Once the competition is over in a rivalry story, everything in the protagonist's world returns to normal. In the case of the underdog story line, the hero may or may not win the competition, but the reader should be given a satisfying ending. Rocky didn't win, but he wasn't clearly defeated either, and people who saw the movie walked away satisfied with the ending (satisfied enough to inspire LOTS of sequels).

Competition is always seductive to the observer, whether we're attending a sporting event, reading a book, watching a movie or frittering away a little free time watching a reality show on television.

We like competition. That's probably why a well written rivalry story (and underdog story) is always popular with Readers.


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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rescue Stories

Rescue plots involve three main characters: the protagonist, the antagonist and the victim, and three main parts, the first, second and third acts.

In the first act, possibly when life seems happy and serene for the protagonist and the fated victim, the two characters are separated from their peaceful existence by the antagonist and plunged into a nightmare.

The second act is all about the protagonist's attempted rescue of the victim which is thwarted over and over again by the antagonist until the segue into the third act.

In the third act the forces of good and evil are at odds in the showdown between the protagonist and antagonist. In the end, the hero defeats the villain and saves the victim.

As is true with any good love story, in a rescue story the reader knows from the beginning how the book will end. Just as the man will win the woman's affections in the end of a love story, the protagonist will defeat the antagonist in a rescue story and restore the victim to her peaceful situation.

Since Readers are expecting a happily ever after ending, the most important part of a rescue story is the attempt the protagonist makes toward succeeding with his quest. The more unexpected and dangerous the obstacles he must overcome, the better. The more ingenious the protagonist must be to thwart the roadblocks placed in his way by the antagonist, the more entertained the Reader will be.

Four things to remember with a rescue plot in addition to the above are:

1. The antagonist acts as he does to get something from the protagonist he believes rightfully belongs to him.

2. The antagonist uses the victim to get what he wants from the protagonist.

3. There must be a close connection between the protagonist and the victim, not necessarily a personal relationship, though. For example, let's say two men were navy seals, and, while on a mission, they pocketed a dozen diamonds, incidental to their mission, and kept them, turned them in, or did whatever was the right thing to do. One of them, who happened to have a daughter, died. The antagonist, who believed the diamonds belonged to him, might kidnap the daughter, whom the surviving seal had never met, and demand he bring him the diamonds or the victim would be killed. In this instance, there is a close connection between the protagonist and victim, even though the two of them have never met.

4. Morally speaking, there is no question the hero is in the right, and the villain is in the wrong.

A rescue story can provide wonderful entertainment for a Reader if the challenges the hero faces are engaging enough to keep her turning the pages. Thus, it is the struggle taking place in the second and third acts which is the most challenging part of writing a rescue story and the most enjoyable part of reading one.

Next week my series on various plots continues.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Fran's Web Page

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Most of us have probably had the urge to seek revenge against someone who's harmed us at least one time in our lives.

That's one reason why we enjoy reading revenge stories and watching revenge movies.

Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing various kinds of plots and the specific structures of each of them. I'm hoping, by mentioning a few devices writers use, Readers will enjoy their books even more by understanding how writers set about creating a story a Reader just can't set aside until she's reached the end.

A revenge plot involves a protagonist who's been wronged. She's tried to get justice through normal channels, but doing things the right way left the antagonist unpunished. The protagonist believes she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands.

A revenge plot is set up in this fashion:

1. The protagonist is living her normal life when along comes the antagonist to harm her in some way.

2. The protagonist takes action through proper channels but gets no satisfaction.

3. She decides she can't live with what the antagonist has done. If the authorities won't punish the offender, then she will seek justice in her own way.

Important Note: Readers should see the protagonist's actions as morally justified, and they ought to be able to empathize with her too. (A friend stealing a woman's husband would be a weak motive for revenge. A friend killing a woman's husband AND setting up the crime to look like the wife did it AND the friend being awarded custody of the couple's children--now we're talking major motive for revenge (with mega complications. How is the protagonist going to get revenge against a woman whom her children have grown to love while the woman served her time in jail for a crime she didn't commit?)

4. The protagonist plots her revenge and goes about carrying out her plans, improvising whenever she fails along the way.

5. The big showdown occurs when the protagonist and antagonist meet face to face. At this point the protagonist may succeed, fail, or decide to let go of the need for revenge because the moral price she must pay is too great (or for some other natural reason which would leave the Reader feeling satisfied).

A revenge plot can be tricky to write because the protagonist usually goes to a much darker place than she is accustomed to. A writer must take care to keep her from losing favor with the Reader or the Reader will be greatly dissatisfied.

The upside of a revenge plot, from a Reader's perspective, can be this: that urge to seek revenge we all have from time to time can be met when we Readers live vicariously through the protagonist who succeeds in getting justice for a wrong every Reader can identify with.

Next week I'll discuss another type of story line. Until then, go out and get some revenge--only in your stories, of course. :-) I hope you read a good one this week!


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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

On Keeping Resolutions

I'm proud to say I haven't broken any New Year's resolutions.

But then, I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore.

It seems a prudent way for a person to keep things in her life in order is to take stock a lot more often than once a year.

I've found I keep resolutions more frequently by setting them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis all year around.

For example, if I'm going to write the first draft of a new book, I'll estimate how long I believe it should take to complete the draft based on how much preparatory work I've done, what my upcoming schedule of non-writing events and obligations looks like, and determine how much time I'll have to do my actual writing.

If I believe it will take me six weeks to complete a first draft, I'll set a goal of six weeks to complete the rough work of the book.

Next, I'll set weekly goals toward reaching the one due to be achieved in six weeks. Week one I will complete the first twelve thousand words; week two I'll write the second ten thousand words and so on.

Finally, goals are broken down into days--two thousand words on Monday (my schedule is filled with other appointments), four thousand on Tuesday (my schedule is lighter), and so on through Saturday. (I work Monday to Saturday, taking Sundays off.)

At the end of each day and week, I reassess and do whatever is necessary to stay on track toward the six-week goal.

If I'm trying to lose weight, I do pretty much the same thing. First I set a long-term goal such as in March I might decide I'd like to lose seven pounds by June first. That would give me three months to lose seven pounds, roughly twelve weeks. On the average I'd need to lose slightly more than one half pound every week.

Just as I'd do with writing the first draft of a book, I'd make weekly assessments to see how I was succeeding in reaching my goal. Some weeks I'd lose weight, some I might stay the same, some I might gain. Whatever the outcome, I'd have to make the proper adjustments each week in order to reach my goal.

Many of us have a dream we'd like to achieve, but thus far we've put it off year after year because it seemed out of reach.

If we're able bodied, most of our dreams are achievable, if we work hard enough to meet our short and long term goals. If a person wants to learn to fly a plane, roller skate, cross country ski, knit, do wood carvings or write a novel he must resolve to do it and then make a plan to fulfill his resolution--whether it is New Year's Day when he makes the commitment or April Fool's Day.

Almost anything can be achieved with commitment and perseverance.

Good luck, Dear Readers, with all of your resolutions, the ones you made on January 1, 2013 (or 2012, 2011, or 2000) and with the ones you make today.


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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Free E-Books

Everyone likes Free Books, Games and other forms of entertainment they can enjoy on a handheld device or a computer. I know between books and games, I give my Kindle a good workout just about everyday, and, yes, some of my content was free.

Many thousands of readers have enjoyed my popular Historical Romance "Change of Heart" as a free download (a number 1 bestseller at Amazon in Historical Romance).

In October the first book of my new Historical Romance "Tender Mysteries Series" was released as a Free Download, and readers are downloading it like crazy. Thank you very much for your positive response!

And speaking of thank yous, I'd like to thank the hundreds of readers who participated in my two recent Good Reads contest giveaways for paperback editions of the "Tender Mysteries Series" and the "Heart Junction Series."

Now, back to the Free Books. In addition to "Change of Heart" and "Resurrected" "Crossed Wires," a popular contemporary romance short story, is also available as a free download.

"Resurrected" -- July, 1895: An investigation into a series of thefts leads Deborah Willet to a compelling man and a shocking discovery about another love in her life.

"Resurrected" is available as a free download at: Barnes and Noble, I-Books, Kobo Books and other sites on the Internet. It is available at Amazon for 99 cents, but if you tell Amazon "Resurrected" is available for Free at other sites, they will price match it so you can get it for free there too.

"Change of Heart" -- 1850s Nebraska. A woman is stranded in a territory she despises with a man she cannot resist.

"Change of Heart" is available as a free download at: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, I-Books, Kobo Books, and other sites on the Internet.

"Crossed Wires" -- Hank Garcia, thinking he was going to Melanie Baker's house to fix an electrical problem, gets the shock of his life.

"Crossed Wires" is available as a free download at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-Books, Kobo Books, and at other sites on the Internet.

Dear Readers, thank you again for your tremendous support. If you have not yet read the above Free Books, I do hope you have the time to enjoy them with my heartfelt gratitude for your interest in my stories.

God Bless You always,


Fran's Web Page

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

It's been a while since I posted to the blog because I took some time off over the Christmas and New Year's holiday to be with family and dear friends. Wow, was it nice!

I accomplished some work around the house too which I'd wanted to do for some time. (I guess the word is out now. Most romance writers lead rather ordinary lives.)

January 2 I was back at work getting "Recruited," the fourth book in the "Tender Mysteries Series" ready for a spring release. I was delighted to be working again after my holiday break because I enjoy working. It's hard for me to be away from writing, and I rarely take time off. I think most writers are like that.

I wanted to wish all of my readers a Happy New Year. May your 2013 be filled with abundant blessings from God.


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