Friday, October 27, 2023

Interview with The Colorado Sun


Gini Rifkin touched on the gift or reading, and the scourge of human trafficking in her novel

The author’s historical romance “Undercover Outlaw” takes place in 1888, but the pervasiveness of human trafficking moved her to include a hotline number

  • Gini Rifkin writes stories of romance and adventure in settings that include the American West, medieval and Victorian England, and contemporary thriller and fantasy. When not writing, she cares for a menagerie of abandoned animals including ducks, goats, donkeys, and cats. Born in Illinois, she moved to Colorado and met her husband, Gary, and they shared their lives for 30 years, until he passed away. A little bit of him lives on in every hero she creates. 

SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?

Gini Rifkin: Using historical romance, I wanted to stress how being able to read can change a person’s ability to control their fate. Set in 1888, my heroine was brave enough to escape her terrible living situation, but if she didn’t know how to read her prospects of making a decent future for herself would have been slim to none. 

I also wanted to show her growth by having her pay forward this beautiful gift of learning to read. Her students are the local prostitutes. Nearly all of these women have other skills, but they can’t read or write so are reduced to surviving the best way they can. 

If my hero was going to find out what really happened to his brother in Prairie Ridge, a corrupt town where one man made the rules, he would need to infiltrate the outlaws employed by the tyrant. He also discovers his “boss” is human trafficking men and women, keeping them sedated with peyote. 

This egregious crime is still happening in towns closer than you might think, and though not a large part of the story, I wanted to touch on the situation and offer a hotline in the back of the book.  

On the romantic spectrum, I thought a case of mistaken identity based upon a hatbox, and an undercover outlaw being forced to kidnap a not-to- be-messed-with female, would be a great way for the hero and heroine to meet.  

SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?

Rifkin: In search of evidence as to who killed his brother, Jess takes a job at the bordello to investigate the nefarious man who runs the saloon and the town. The heroine, Trinity, has been teaching the ladies of the evening who live there how to read. As Trinity and Jesse begin to trust one another, they can no longer deny the emotions building between them. Mary June and the other girls dress Trinity in a provocative costume and arrange for her and Jesse to experience a night to remember. Fate has other plans.   

SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write? 

Rifkin: When the name Trinity Tuesday came to me, I knew I needed a female character as strong and quirky as the name. Then the title “Undercover Outlaw” suggested a hero who was willing to become the last thing he respected. Living in Colorado gave me a feel for the scenery and setting. 

SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?

Rifkin: Twists and turns are usually appreciated, although they can require rewriting and resequencing, which can be frustrating. I find they generally make the story more interesting, so if you are going to follow where they lead, you just have to do whatever it takes to make your story stronger and the best it can be. 

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book? 

Rifkin: The heroine forming a friendship with the ladies of the evening became more in-depth than anticipated, and the local newspaperman being a match for Etta, the older woman who taught Trinity to read, was a sweet surprise. 

SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write? 

Rifkin: I try to be a plotter and have at least a decent outline. Key word here is “ try.” Then there are ideas that organically occur that I can’t help but incorporate. For me, writing means rewriting, multiple times, like layers of paint on canvas until the final picture is done. 

I write in a ground level room offering no great view, but it keeps me focused. When I’m stuck or tired, I go to the barn and let the animals work their magic.  

SunLit: How do you integrate working on books with your everyday life?

Rifkin: While finishing this book and letting the next one percolate, I felt the desire to try something new to fill my break time away from the computer — something fun that would still allow me to plot and dream about my writing. After taking several hours of lessons at the local yarn shop, I began weaving with a rigid heddle loom. 

This led to trying to spin yarn from my bags full of Angora goat hair. Still having a bit of a struggle with the carding and drop spindle, but I am thoroughly enjoying the loom. Now I can spin more than just stories and weave new tales as well as scarves and tea towels. 

SunLit: Tell us about your next project.

 Break Heart Canyon

Rifkin: My next sweet historical romance, “Break Heart Canyon” released in September 2022. The story is set again in Colorado, 1878. That was the year the total eclipse helped put Colorado on the map socially and scientifically, rather than just being known as a gold/silver mining area. 

Also, after the discovery of dinosaur bones in Como, Wyoming, and Garden City, Colorado, the Bone Wars began. Universities as well as private individuals resorted to all manner of underhanded tactics to secure the best specimens. 

The hero is hired to unearth a Native American breast plate containing dinosaur bones. The land upon which the artifact is buried belongs to a widowed Scottish immigrant who raises goats. She has her own war to worry about when the local cattlemen try to run her off. 

For a bit of humor, add in two donkeys, Wallace and The Countess. Then for myth and mystery, there is the legend of Break Heart Canyon, and an old unsolved murder. I like to wrap my romances around historical information, but I’m open to “what ifs” and stretching one’s mind on many levels. 


 A heartwarming Medieval Christmas story.   

  Available here 

                   Pre-order now for a release date 11/14/23

#coloradosunmagazine #historicalromance #coloradoromance

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Colorado Eclipse of 1878

                 Will the total eclipse unite more 
                   than the sun and moon? 


   A total eclipse is quite the memorable experience and I'm excited to see our partial view of the one coming on 10-14-23.   
   While researching my book, Break Heart Canyon, I discovered such a happening took place in July, 1878. I just had to include the event as a special moment for my characters Una and Ryker to share. 
  Known as The Great Eclipse of 1878, this cosmic occurrence drew a huge amount of attention to Colorado, especially Denver, Pike's Peak, and Colorado Springs. The state soon became known as a sophisticated scientific community rather than just a place out West famous for  mining gold and silver.  
    That year, the eclipse traveled through British Columbia, along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and directly over Pike's Peak. 
  The cover of Harper's Weekly featured the event in Colorado. 

     When newspapers across the country made the eclipse
headline news, the phenomenon began to spark interest in science for everyday people. Asaph Hall, who had recently discovered the Martian moons, was in Colorado, as was Maria Mitchell, leading an all-female expedition to show the world what women astronomers could do. 
                       Maria Mitchell, first female astronomer 

One scientist, Samuel Pierpont Langley, battled a terrible case of altitude sickness and 10 inches of snow at over 14,000 feet on Pike's Peak. But he captured one of the best images to date. 
    Thomas Edison even made the trip, but opted to go to Wyoming. The majority of scientists and astronomers watched in Colorado. There was even an observatory set up on the roof of the Teller House in Central City. and one posh hotel in Colorado Springs hired a band to entertain guests as they watch the solar display. 

   In the following excerpt from Break Heart Canyon, the hero, Ryker Landry, and the heroine, Una MacLaren, are together in the back of a small straw filled cart, cozy and awaiting for this exciting phenomenon to begin. Their friend, Mr. Jim has joined them.  


   A second piece of honey cake in one hand, Mr. Jim rolled a stump closer with his other, and took a seat beside the wagon. “The best part is starting,” he announced, his excitement managing to make it out around his mouth full of cake.

   This was it. Una’s heartbeat quickened. The donkeys huffed and whined and the goats pressed closer. With one eye turned skyward, the chickens, ducks, and goose hurried awkwardly toward their nighttime roosting quarters.

   Little by little the sun disappeared. Shadows turned to mist, and as the light slipped away, a softness layered their surroundings. When the last ray of sun winked out, darkness fell—complete and startling. Stars shone in the sky, the air grew noticeably cooler as an eerie stillness settled over them.

   Unsteady at the sudden shift, she reached out with her free hand and found Ryker’s waiting. Fingers interlaced they held fast as the sun was totally obliterated and a blaze of gold ringed the eye of darkness.

  “It’s magical,” she exhaled the words in awe.

     “Glad I lived to see such a sight,” Mr. Jim agreed, wonderment coloring his words too.
     Ryker remained silent, but his grip tightened ever so slightly indicating the display was not lost on him either. One hundred and ninety-one seconds later, the first ray of sunlight escaped the blackness and speared down to Earth reversing the phenomenon,
     The rooster crowed as if morning had come again in the afternoon. The donkeys joined in with hardy heehaws. In a discord of maahs and baahs, and as if late for an important appointment, the goats rushed back out to pasture.
     Following months of anticipation, the culmination of the event left Una woozy, and she flopped back onto the hay, continuing to stare through her glass as the fire ball grew larger and larger.      
      “Praise the Saints, what a grandiose sight.”
      Elbow bent, his head propped up in his hand, Ryker stretched out at her side, the length of his body mere inches from hers. He no longer seemed fascinated with the moon and sun. She shifted her viewing glass and met his gaze. He wanted to kiss her. The wonton
idea appealed to her as well—quite deeply.
     They drew closer, their lips separated by the width of a butterfly wing. Then the creak and groan of splintering wood filled the air. The left wheel fell off and the tumbril tipped sharply sideways. Ryker gathered her close, and with a flurry of hay and
matching yelps of surprise, they toppled to the ground. 
     Careening to a halt, wrapped in one another’s arms, Una couldn’t stop laughing. Rolling onto her back she pressed her hands to her stomach, but the belly laughs kept coming. Giving up, she rejoiced in the moment, not remembering the last time such gaiety had seized control of her body and robbed her of her good senses.
     Upsetting the stump, Mr. Jim clattered to his feet. Hands on his thighs, he bent forward and peered down at them. “You two all right?” Still chuckling, they both nodded, and he laughed too. “Nothing like dinner and a show.”
     Mr. Jim’s mirth stopped as he straightened and glanced toward the trail leading from the main road to her property. “Company’s coming.”
     Una went on the alert. Mr. Jim held out a hand to help her up, and she grabbed the offered assistance and scrambled upright. Ryker gave her backside a gentle boost. Then he was at her side, one hand at the small of her back, the other on the revolver at his hip.


Grab a copy of my award winning western here! 


  Unearthing artifacts in Colorado sounded like easy money to Ryker Landry. Then he met the woman who owned the land. 
     Una MacLaren vows no fortune hunter will desecrate the ancient relics of BreakHeart Canyon—even if the man is a handsome scoundrel. Fighting to keep her goat farm afloat as local cattlemen hatch deadly schemes to make sure she fails, Una has enough to worry about. 
    Captivated by the courageous redhead, Ryker joins forces with Una and her deerhound, MacTavish. But what does he desire most—the woman or the artifacts? 
   When the mythical white cougar again prowls the rocky cliffs, the legend of BreakHeart Canyon draws them into a web of danger. Now only daring and blind trust can save them. 

Even the secondary characters are fun!

Friday, October 6, 2023

Promise Me Christmas available for Preorder!


                   A holiday romance
  to warm your heart all season long. 
  The nights are growing longer and the winter snows are coming—Darkenwald Castle is under siege.  

    Lord Guy Blackthorne is prepared to lay down his life for his children, his wife, and all who seek his protection. But as renegades, mercenaries, and political intrigue surround his ancient family stronghold, he’s forced to stay his hand against those who would dare to attack his fortress.  
     As supplies and hope dwindle, Lady Vespa fears Yule will not be one of good cheer, and the children shall have no gifts this year. At least she and Guy have one another, for that she is thankful. But there are few private moments to share their love, and every endeavor to satisfy their passion is interrupted when the enemy attempts to invade the castle. 
    On Christmas Eve, when a battle to the death begins, Guy faces his greatest challenge. Now Vespa’s wish for a happy Yule celebration turns to a prayer for her beloved’s safety. 
                Available for preorder here..
 She ran her hand across the front of Guy’s mail shirt, the rings bit into her fingers as apprehension prickled though her body. Every time he was away overseeing the land or doing the king’s bidding, he had always come home safely. With aid from her brother-in-law, the odds were better and success more likely—but not assured. Was she to lose him now a stone’s throw from their castle door?  
   Swallowing down the words she wished to utter, she smiled as best she could. There would be no stopping him, and she’d not send him off to battle with anything less than all her support. At times like this, he belonged to more than just her. Guy fought for everyone who had come seeking his protection. 
   “Godspeed.” Her smile turned wooden, her hands cold, yet the love burning in her heart was fire enough to destroy a forest. She slipped free a thin strip of silk belting her waist. “Come back to me safe.” She tied the bright fabric to the horse’s bridle. “I’ve grown accustomed to you and do not wish to train a new husband.”
   He laughed at that, then quickly sobered. “I love you, Vespa.”
He’d promised to tell her more often and now he had, yet the declaration near set her back on her heels. Regardless of his good intentions, this was not a statement he tossed about lightly. He showed his affection in other ways like bringing her trinkets from markets in other holdings, and when they did come together, their union was with a great passion. But this pronouncement, issued on the brink of battle where others could hear, this was special. Did it also mean he feared he may not return to her? 
  “And I love thee, Guy.” Finding her voice, she breathed out the words, but they were lost to the flurry of activity as he turned and mounted up. Her throat tightened with fear and the tears she held back, and she couldn’t repeat the phrase.


Cover art design, and self-publishing formatting and design by Mistress of Book Reviews