Right now there are four Circle C Milestones novels. In February 2022, books 5 and 6 will be released. Because they are fresh and new, their cover fun stories are in a separate category. So after enjoying these behind the scenes cover stories, visit the Tales from Memory Creek page >> to read the stories behind those covers.
Thick as Thieves
Thick as Thieves was originally a Circle C Adventure. Andi was only 12 in the story, and it was called Andrea Carter and the Orphan Outlaw. I wrote it back in 2000, before my Circle C Adventures were ever accepted by Kregel Publications >>. Mostly, I wrote it for myself. The main antagonist, Macy, was originally named Tilly. She had three older brothers and an older sister, Lucy. But the more I looked at it, the more it seemed too coincidental that this family should be the exact opposite of the Carter family, so I dumped the older sister, who worked at the saloon. I have tried my hardest to find the original story. It included a poker game in the saloon I wanted to use it as a snippet scene. Andi, in an attempt to befriend Tilly, naively agrees to see where the girl hangs out most days after school. In order not to offend Tilly, Andi finds herself sitting around one of the tables and she’s dealt a poker hand (five-card draw). She knows how to play but is scared to death one of her brothers is going to catch her. She wonders how in the world she got herself into a fix like this. Then the worse happens. Andi is dealt a full house (three of one kind of card, and two of another). She wins the hand and gets the pot. She knows she’s in trouble now. She has gambled . . . in a saloon. She knows her life is over when a quiet voice says from behind her shoulder “That was quite a hand.” It’s Mitch.
Another plot point I changed was what happens after Tilly (Macy) sticks the tack into Taffy’s saddle and Andi is running away on Taffy. After Mitch rescues her, Andi gallops back into town. In the original version, she does go after Tilly and fights her. Mitch has to break up the fight and drag his sister home. She has disgraced the Carter name for sure. I changed it because 1) This wasn’t a Circle C Adventure any longer with a young, immature twelve-year-old. This was Andi at nearly fourteen. And 2) It was time to show some character growth in Andi. She had already knocked Virginia to the ground in Dangerous Decision, I figured I’d better let her cool down and think about the Christian response. And she did.
If you would like to read the snippets I did find from the original story, go to Thick as Thieves Macy’s point of view >>
There are not a lot of cover photo stories here. For Thick as Thieves, I dug into my old Price of Truth pictures. Why? Because by now, Jessica, my cover girl, had moved and had gotten much older. You will probably recognize the shirt she is wearing on the cover.
Heartbreak Trail started out as a blog story, “Cattle Drives Are Not for Greenhorns.” It was a serial story, much like some of the others I’ve posted through the years. This story, however, was 15,000 words. In the original Cattle Drive story, Andi is 12 years old, and the story is set during the summer of 1880, between Long Ride Home and Dangerous Decision. I wrote it just for fun. When I was compiling Tales from the Circle C Ranch >> a collection of short stories, I considered including Cattle Drive. However, it was too long for a short story, and I was already contracted for the Circle C Milestones. I needed a story to come between Thick as Thieves (which, as you know was already written as a Circle C Adventure and only needed revisions), and The Last Ride, which was partially written as well. So I chose to expand the Cattle Drive story by making Andi older and adding a lot more elements than the shorter story.
I found the original story, and you can read it. “A Cattle Drive Is Not for Greenhorns >>”
By the time the Milestones books had been contracted, Jessica, my cover girl, was married and had moved to Arkansas. I used an old photo from the Price of Truth photo shoot for Thick as Thieves. I couldn’t find any that went with Heartbreak Trail, but luckily, Jessica and her family were going to attend the same homeschool convention in Oklahoma City as I was. She showed up and helped out at my Circle C Adventures booth. When the exhibit hall traffic slowed down, we ducked into a back room and snapped some pictures. Worst idea ever! Why? 1) Jessica should have worn any color but white, 2) We should have gone outside and found a shady spot, as the indoor lighting was terrible. It was only much later that I saw how the bad lighting highlight dark shadows under her eyes. And then it was too late to do anything about it.
It probably turned out all right, though, since in Heartbreak Trail, Andi has many sleepless nights, so at least it’s realistic. It’s one of those covers that you don’t put up for any kind of cover art award, however.
The Last Ride
I wrote The Last Ride years and years ago (2001). It began with the letter from town and the arrival of an irritating cousin who torments Andi and Melinda. I included the eavesdropping scene, but then I didn’t know what to write (since Riley was not in this story). I fast forwarded and wrote the scene where Andi finds Daniel’s stash in the hayloft. Then I skipped ahead and wrote the climax scene, Andi’s accident. I wrote about her recovery and then I introduced a new character. His name was Ty. That scene is in the book, but when the chapter ends, that’s it. Nothing more. The entire story–with many gaps and holes–was a mere 16,000 words long. However, when I got serious about adding it to the Milestones, I decided, “Hold on! What if Riley comes back?” Once I wrote Riley back into the story, I knew I could finish it.
The one thing that kept me from finishing it beforehand was the fact that I let Taffy die. I didn’t think that would go over very well. Not even my mentor, author Colleen Reece >> thought Taffy’s death was a good plan. I thought about other options–injured for life, etc. But none of them gave me the heart-wrenching tragedy that would demand a journey to full forgiveness if Taffy lived. Thankfully, I had Shasta, to whom Andi could eventually turn her equine affection. And I needed somebody besides her family to get her through this, so Riley became an even more important character. Although hardly any of my friends thought letting Taffy die was a good idea, my publisher, Kregel, was fine with it.
I actually wrote the “cliff” scene from both Andi’s point of view and from Chad’s point of view after she begs her brothers not to shoot Taffy. The fans all liked it, but my editor said it would spoil it and the reader needed to learn about Taffy’s passing the same time Andi did. I pondered it, and although I loved my scene, in my gut I knew my editor was right, so I changed it. But what about you? Which way do you prefer? If you have read the original, you have everything from Andi’s point of view. Here is the original. Missing scene from The Last Ride >>
I went back to the Dangerous Decision photo shoot to find this cover. After all, Andi was very-young-looking sixteen when the picture was taken (even though she was portraying a 12 year old). So, since she is sixteen in The Last Ride, I figured it would work. There were no other choices or possible covers, so this post is very short and straightforward.
Courageous Love is the final full-length novel in the Circle C Milestones series. Andi is turning seventeen in the book, and the book ends one year later after she turns eighteen. I think by now you know Mrs. M well enough to realize that she prefers a rip-roaring adventure rather than a mushy story. No time or word count to put in that “courting year” between the last two chapters. I planned on ending the book with Riley receiving permission to court Andi, and Andi agreeing. My daughter, Kristel, (who like inspirational romance) said, “Oh, no, Mom! You have to at least show the wedding scene and the dress.” She did not want the book to end with mere courting. Hence the fast-forward between permission to court our heroine and the wedding. I asked Kristel to read the last chapter, and she gave it her stamp of approval. I could not write anything about the year of courtship for another reason. It is anti-climatic after all of the stuff that happens to Andi and her family. When the book (climax) is over, it’s over. It is wrong to drag it on.
But all is not lost for diehard Andi fans who want to read more about Andi and Riley and their new ranch. A number of stories “backflash” to that courting year. Click on the Tales from Memory Creek >> on the Cover Fun page to learn more about that.
Believe it or not, I was relieved when I knew this was the final Andrea Carter book (with Andi getting too old to find more Jessica pictures). But Jessica came home to WA state for Christmas, and I asked if we could do a few more pictures for this very last book. She was happy to do so, and they actually turned out nicely. Andi is seventeen and eighteen in this book, so Jessica (still looking pretty young) fit right in. She has always looked much younger than her age, so all in all, it has been a fun experience. Enjoy the pictures we took from this last photo shoot.