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