Sweetwater Springs Christmas #holiday #anthology

I was very pleased to be included in Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs Christmas, a holiday anthology set in her Montana Sky World. If you like sweet Western romance, you will enjoy this collection of short stories.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas:
A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology

by Debra Holland and Friends
Western Historical Short Story Anthology

Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthologyCome celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author Debra Holland in telling short stories of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology is available from Amazon in print or e-book for purchase or read free on Kindle Unlimited.

Also available in audio! Check it out at Audible.com.

My story in the anthology is “The Best Present”. For this story, I shed my romance persona and wrote about a ten-year-old girl having the worst Christmas of her young life. I drew on some personal experiences, including my memories of my tenth Christmas, which took place two weeks after the death of my grandmother. Allison’s story has a different ending than mine did, but it’s the most personal work I’ve ever written, and writing it was an emotional experience for me.

train graphic

Ten-year-old Allison Harcourt’s life has been turned upside down since her father lost his job and her beloved grandmother died. She’s not looking forward to Christmas, especially since she can’t figure out how to finish the scarf she’s making for her mother. An unexpected stop in Sweetwater Springs brings her and her parents to the boarding house of the widow Murphy. Sometimes sweet things can be found in the most unexpected places.

Excerpt:

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

Allison Harcourt stared at the opening lines of her favorite book, “Little Women”, until the words blurred. Unable to read, she closed the volume.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without Grandma.

Sudden tears filled her eyes, and she turned her head to stare out the train window, blinking furiously to make the moisture go away. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. The words pounded rhythmically in her head to the clack of the train over the tracks. Mama and Papa hated seeing her cry, but it was hard to hide the tears with Mama sitting across from her. If only her seat faced front. Then Mama wouldn’t be able to see her.

Her mother heaved a sigh. “Why do you read that book when it makes you weep?”

Allison wiped her eyes and looked at her mother. For once Little Women wasn’t the reason she was crying, but she gave the same answer she always did. “Because it’s so good.” It was a familiar refrain, one they had exchanged the second and fifth and tenth time she’d read the book. Usually, she only cried when Beth died, but now, with Christmas only a day away…

She slipped the book into her carpetbag and turned back to the window so Mama couldn’t see her face. The scenery outside sped by as the train clattered along the track, clouds of black smoke billowing back from the locomotive. Allison could barely see through her tears, but it didn’t matter. She was tired of looking at the prairie, so flat and boring, especially today with the sky a pale gray. There were supposed to be mountains ahead, but her seat faced the rear of the train. All she could see was what was behind her–not just miles of prairie, but her friends, her school, and her home back in Pittsburgh–before Grandma died and Papa said they were moving.

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In September of this year, I had the chance to take a tour of Montana and we traveled part of the route Alison and her parents would have taken on the railroad to Sweetwater Springs. I’ve started a new book set in this world, which I hope to have finished next year.

Merry Christmas

Linda Mclaughlin

Take the Day Off: Happy Labor Day!

American flag and tools. Happy Labor Day

Labor Day is a holiday that doesn’t seem to have much purpose any more beyond BBQ and a long weekend, but there is a reason for the holiday. Begun in 1894, Labor Day was intended to celebrate the labor union movement, which started in the 19th century and reached its height in the US at mid-20th century.

International Worker’s Day is celebrated worldwide on May 1st, but the date coincided too closely to the May 4, 1886 date of the infamous Haymarket affair in Chicago. Anarchists threw a bomb into the crowd as the police attempted to disperse a peaceful rally in support of labor rights. Seven policemen and at least four civilians were killed in the blast and subsequent gunfire, and dozens of other people were wounded. The Communist embrace of May 1st further discredited it in the minds of the American people.

Take the Day Off

I grew up in a union household. Before her marriage, my mom worked in a factory and joined the union. When she turned 65, she started getting laughably small pension checks from the union. My dad was a lifetime member of the Brotherhood of Teamsters, and his union pension was a godsend in their later years. My nephew has worked construction since finishing high school and the only pension he will get will be from his union.

Management Style

Sadly, union membership in the private sector has dropped below 7%, and surprise, surprise! wages are stagnant. Cause and effect, people. Large corporations have worked very hard to destroy labor unions, in part by supporting Right to Work (for Less) laws in states all over the country. I’d love to see a resurgence in union membership in this country. There’s a reason why workers in the old days wanted to organize, and some things never change.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and leave you with a laugh.

Graveyard Workers Strike

Back to the barbie. Happy Labor Day!

Linda