Spotlight & Giveaway: Boxcar Christmas by Lindsay McKenna

Posted January 5th, 2018 by in Blog, Spotlight / 38 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Lindsay McKenna to HJ!

Hi Lindsay and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Boxcar Christmas!

Thanks Sarah! Good to be back! Happy Holidays to all!

Please summarize the book for the readers here:

This is going to be a true story about the background of why I wrote BOXCAR CHRISTMAS:
When I was six years old, 1950, we lived on an island in the middle of the mighty Snake River near Ontario, Oregon. At six, I was going to the first grade. But there was a huge hurdle I had to walk every day to go meet the school bus. There was a huge train 3-span bridge stretching across the Snake River. And I had to walk it.

I don’t know if you can imagine this but my Scorpio mother taught me how to walk across it BY MYSELF after she showed me how to do it. There was a big problem: I was dizzied by the brownish/green water far below me if I looked down. And I’d lose my balance. The chances of me falling off the bridge were very real. Consequently, I learned to walk those trestles above the water WITHOUT LOOKING DOWN, which increased exponentially, my miscalculating and stumbling and thereby, pitching off the bridge, falling into the water and drowning. Even at five, I understand all of that! In 1950, there were no safeguards on bridges for anyone, much less a 5-year-old little girl.

My mother worked, so she too had to walk across that bridge twice a day, too. She would park our car on the bank, near the bridge, and walk across to our home on that island. She taught me that if a train came? I was to lay down in the middle of the tracks, flatten out and keep my arms and legs within the rails while the train passed above me. That way, I’d survive. Otherwise, I wouldn’t.

Now, it’s 2017. Can you imagine ANY mother doing that nowadays with a 5-year-old, much less a child of any age under 18? I’m sure you wouldn’t. She did NOT accompany me across the bridge after that–I was on my own. She was already at work and couldn’t do it even though she wanted too. My step father was too injured from the war to do much walking, so that was out, too. BUT….we had Blackie, an older Border Collie, who we found on the island when we moved into the house. He adopted us.

And he would accompany me to the bridge, stand watch, but not go across it because he was frightened of it, too. So was I. My greatest fear was not hearing a train coming behind me and then having to do my safety thing to survive it. That scared me more than walking across the three-span bridge. Blackie would then meet me in the afternoon when the school bus dropped me off and I had to walk the bridge to get back home.

I loved that dog with my life. He sensed how frightened I was of that bridge, sensing that if I looked down, I’d get dizzy, lose my balance and fall in and drown in the Snake River. He was my guardian.

I wanted to write a book about a Border Collie based upon my childhood experiences with Blackie. I wanted to honor him and his breed. So, there’s lots of wonderful emotions I was able to write into BOXCAR CHRISTMAS and I know my readers will feel it as they read Freya’s story of survival. And how she helped her 2 humans immensely and in important ways after they rescued her.

I went through a LOT of stock photos to find Blackie. I wasn’t sure I would, but as luck would have it, I did. And now the Border Collie on the book’s cover looks EXACTLY like my beloved Blackie. Every time I see that cover, I smile and my heart expands with love for my guardian angel dog who met me every day for a year when I had to walk that train bridge over the Snake River ;-).

BOXCAR CHRISTMAS is about two lost people bound by a black-and-white Border collie who is pregnant and lost, too. And how they found one another and the miracles that happened because of it.

What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:

The metal tag on her leather collar said “Freya” with an AKC number below it. The black and white Border Collie lay deep in the woods of Montana, five new pups hungrily suckling her. She was exhausted but remained alert, knowing she was in bobcat, fox, grizzly and cougar country. The smell of blood and birthing matter would draw the attention of any predator if they were in the area.


When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?

I really didn’t have any challenges with BOXCAR CHRISTMAS because I’d lived in a caboose when living in Blackfoot, Idaho. And before that, we’d had Blackie, our Border Collie, when we lived on an island in the middle of the Snake River near Ontario, Oregon. I was passionate about sharing those times, experiences and adventures that I had as a child and young girl, with my readers. I always like to create a story from the fabric of my own life experiences because they have a depth you don’t have to try or imagine. It makes the book more real, far more personal between writer and reader.


Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?

Jesse Myers, the heroine, is a lost soul looking to reclaim her life after leaving the Army. Travis Ramsey, three years a civilian after leaving the military, finds new demands and responsibilities with his ailing father. A red caboose brings them together and they slowly discover that despite their own failings or troubles, that they can support one another.


What have you learned about your own writing process/you as an author while writing this book?

The key was to translate my early childhood and weave it seamlessly into BOXCAR CHRISTMAS. It was a warming journey and wonderful to re-remember Blackie, our Border Collie. This is a book honoring this wonderful dog who was truly a family member.

The First kiss…

She felt his fingers tighten marginally as she pressed herself fully against him, more than a little aware of his growing erection against her belly. Fire simmered in her lower body and she ached to do more than this. Leaning up, her lips within an inch of his, she whispered, “I want to kiss you…” She closed her eyes, straining upward, meeting his mouth for the first time.


Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?

“Okay,” Travis warned his father as he stood at the door to the basement, “get prepared for an onslaught.”
Sam sat in the overstuffed chair opposite the couch where Jesse sat. “Bring them on,” he said.
Jesse smiled, seeing the excitement in Sam’s eyes. He’d eaten like a proverbial horse, giving her and Travis compliments on the food, and how good it tasted. She had seen, from time to time, confusion in Travis’s eyes. Was it because his father wasn’t being angry or grouchy? Not using him as a whipping post? She’d ask him later after Sam left.
“Here they come,” Travis warned with a grin, opening the door.
Freya and Cyrus were standing at the top of the stairs, the five pups squirming, wriggling and racing between their legs, all of them spilling into the living room.
Sam laughed, watching all five of the pups spotting him and changing their cannon-like trajectory, galloping toward him. He was new to their world and they wanted to check him out. He leaned down as the pups leaped up on his lower pant legs and boots, yipping, sniffing and frolicking playfully around his feet.
Travis smiled as he came and sat down next to Jesse on the couch, opposite Sam. She returned his smile and sat back, watching the antics of the pups with him. Clearly, dogs loved this man. Cyrus came over to his master, laying down beside the chair, thumping his tail as the pups mauled him. Four of the pups delighted in leaping all over him, which he took in patient, elder stride. Freya sat close to Jesse, watching her happy brood tumble and play around Sam’s feet and rocket around Cyrus, leaping up on his back, sliding off, yipping with glee and doing it all over again.
For the next few minutes, Jesse watched Sam come alive. He would laugh, gently pick up a pup, pet it and then set it back on the rug. She noticed the only male, who had black freckles all over the top of his muzzle and was the only one with beautiful blue eyes, hang around Sam after the others left to go romp with Cyrus.
“This is a right nice pup,” Sam congratulated them, lifting him into his hands, criticaly studying him. He held him against his chest as it snuggled into the folds between his vest and shirt.
Travis said, “He’s the only one with blue eyes, like his mother, Freya.”
Sam continued to hold the pup and support him. “His eyes are beautiful. Never seen a dog with blue eyes before.” He grinned. “I see Cyrus really likes all those kids jumping and leaping all over him.”
“It’s nice to see them playing together,” Jesse said. “Maybe you were right, he was lonely?”
“That could well be. Heck, I get lonely out there by myself, too. Why wouldn’t Cy?”
“We’re giving away the pups on December 14th,” Travis said. “All but the blue-eyed male pup is spoken for.”
Peering down at the pup, Sam said, “He’s the prettiest marked of all of ‘em.”


If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?

Putting the cell phone on the counter, Jesse saw the cougar walking toward the rear of the caboose. The cat had probably been following the mother. Turning, she saw the dog standing in the center of the boxcar, a low growl in her throat, her hackles, or what was left of them, were standing straight up on her shoulders and all the way down her spine. The pups were okay, nestled in the warmth of the blanket, sleeping.
Jerking open one drawer, Jesse gripped a huge butcher knife. It was all she had. Would the cat attack? Try to break a window and get in? Her mind skipped through many scenarios. She didn’t know the habits of a cougar except that this one had followed the dog here, to her home.
The dog’s growl increased, her body stiffening.
Jesse lost sight of the cougar. Where was it?
Panic struck her. She felt as if she were back in combat. Her hand tightened around the wooden handle of the ten-inch butcher knife. She walked up to where the dog was at, her gaze riveting to the rear window.
Suddenly, the cat’s face appeared in the window, it’s huge paws on either side of it, amber eyes looking in – at them.
Gulping, Jesse felt the power of the cat’s intense focus.
The dog leaped into action, throwing herself at the back door, trying to attack the cougar on the other side of it. Her barks were sharp, ear splitting and her growl deep and filled with hatred.
The cougar dropped back down on all fours, disappearing from the window.
Jesse blinked. What could she do?
Nothing. Oh, God…
The dog barked furiously, throwing herself again and again at the back door, the hair all along her neck and back standing straight up. The barks and growls were savage.
Jesse forced herself to walk to the rear door. Was the cougar still on the platform? Waiting? Figuring out how to get into the caboose? She swiftly turned, gaze snapping from one window to another. The easiest way to get in was through this back door. The window was too small for the cat to actually get in through it, but he could cause a lot of problems for her, the dog and the pups.


Readers should read this book….

If readers have a dog? They will want to read this story. And even if you aren’t owned by a dog, anyone who loves animals will be pulled into this heartwarming tale that is more truth than fiction.

What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?

SANCTUARY, Book 9 of the Delos Series, is released on 2.1.2018. This is a high adventure, intense and emotional book that takes place in Khartoum, Sudan. Strap in! Then, I have LONE RIDER, Book 5 from my Wind River Valley series with Kensington, released on 4.1.2018. It too is a nail biter about an ex-military cowboy who gets entangled with a woman who is being stalked once more. On 5.14.18, DANGEROUS, Book 10 of the Delos Series, is released. This is a story of two military people who fell in love, but war drove them apart. Now, they get a second chance, but there’s no guarantees because of the nature of their mission.


Thanks for blogging at HJ!


Giveaway: Paperback of BOXCAR CHRISTMAS, autographed by author. USA only


To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Tell me about YOUR dog in your life and how he or she has improved upon it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Excerpt from Boxcar Christmas:

Exclusive Excerpt from Boxcar Christmas by Lindsay McKenna #1


November 1

It wasn’t much to look at. The wooden slats that made up the ancient red caboose were weathered, the boxcar sitting on the edge of a flat yellow grass meadow, backed by thousands of evergreens in western Montana. Early November wind whistled and cut at Jesse Myer’s exposed face. She felt the icy morning coldness seep through her rain dampened olive green Army jacket as she emerged cautiously out of the woods. She had discovered the boxcar while hunting rosehips scattered along the banks of the Bitterroot River. It was a source of protein for her tightened, gnawing stomach in want of food.

The large, oval-shaped meadow bordered the water and the rose hips were a substantial source of food when in the back country. She chewed slowly on another one, knowing it was packed with nutrition. Shivering, she felt hope spike through her as she walked out of the woods that lay west of Hamilton, a small hunting and fishing tourist town. She had followed the river in search of a place to pitch her tent outside the city limits. Standing on the edge of the meadow, she fully surveyed it. It rained at dusk last night and then snowflakes had fallen thick and fast throughout the nighttime hours, and toward dawn the ground was covered with about six inches of the white stuff. As a gray dawn sluggishly crawled upon the eastern horizon, the flakes had turned into a soft, constant rain once more. Most of the snow had melted as the temperature rose, but patches of white still existed here and there–it was an Indian summer event. Jesse sincerely hoped that it meant warmer weather would come into the area and warm it up for a couple of weeks while she hunted for a place to live.

She’d discovered the ancient Union Pacific caboose at the edge of the meadow by accident. There was no telling how old it was, the slats of tongue-and-grove wood that composed its sides were worn , the paint chipped off but still solidly in place despite the harsh winter weather that it had obviously endured over the years. There were no railroad tracks around from what she could see. The under carriage of the caboose had been removed and it had been set upon a rectangular concrete slab, reminding her of the tiny house craze sweeping through her Millennial generation. Her gaze absorbed the forty-foot long boxcar and she could see that at one time, it had been well cared for. But now, it looked utterly abandoned, the paint dull and peeling off the sturdy oak staves beneath it. Someone had brought this caboose out here. Was it someone who lived in Hamilton? Maybe the owner of this plot of land used it as a cabin to hunt and fish on weekends? Jesse had no idea, but there it was. Maybe it could be a possible home for her instead of the tent she had strapped to the huge knapsack she carried on her back. She wanted to make sure no one was living in it presently and thought about trespassing to find out–even though it went against her grain. Jesse couldn’t explain the allure to do just that.

She called out several times, her voice echoing around the meadow. There was no response or movement from inside the boxcar. The four windows along the meadow side were dirty, and she longed to clean them. Deciding either no one was home or living in it, she curved her hand around the rusted metal railing at the rear platform of the boxcar and took the first tentative step upward. The ends of each wooden step curved upward from age and now rested precariously on the metal frame beneath each one, the nails pulled out by rain and snow over the years. The step groaned. Not that she weighed that much. In the Army, she had been a hundred and sixty pounds; but three months ago, when she received an honorable medical discharge at the end of eight years of service, she had slowly lost at least twenty-five pounds due lack of appetite and no money to buy food. Her Army jacket, the only reminder of her life since age eighteen, hung loosely on her frame.

Her gloves were threadbare, her fingertips numb. She hauled herself up the rest of the creaking wooden steps and leaned forward, cupping her hands around her eyes and peering through the dirty glass of the door to see what was inside the caboose. It was a possible place to live but she had no money for a room rental. She’d just gotten a job at Katie’s Koffee Bean in Hamilton as a dish washer. But it was part time and Jesse had no money yet to rent a room in town, much less an apartment. She had lived in her tent since leaving the Army and was prepared to do it now, but maybe her luck was about to change.

Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Book Info:

One train car. Two lost souls. Five adorable puppies.

Travis Ramsey is back in Hamilton, Montana, after 10 years serving as a Delta Force operator in Afghanistan. Now responsible for his dad’s fishing guide business, Travis has to deal with his increasingly distant and difficult father, and guilt over his brother’s death. His life takes a turn for the better when he meets Army vet Jesse Myers. Jesse is taken with his grandparent’s quirky boxcar cabin and wants to rent it. Taken by her beauty—and the familiar haunted look in her eyes—he makes her a deal. He will rent the boxcar to her for free in return for her help in making renovations.

Working on the train car, Travis and Jesse grow closer. But when Jesse rescues a desperate Border Collie and her five adorable puppies, something unexpected happens. A Christmas miracle neither saw coming.

Book Links: Amazon  | BN | iBooks |

Meet the Author:

A U.S. Navy veteran, Lindsay McKenna was a meteorologist while serving her country. A pioneer of the military romance genre in 1993 with Captive of Fate. Her heart and focus is on honoring our military men and women. Creator of the Wind River Valley Series for Kensington Books, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. She is also the creator of the DELOS Series, a family saga/series that is romantic suspense. Visit her online at her website for monthly newsletter, contest, and so much more
Website | Facebook | Twitter |

38 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Boxcar Christmas by Lindsay McKenna”

  1. laurieg72

    We had a Shetland Sheepdog, Sandy. He was my playmate, my confidant, my friend. He died at the foot of my bed on the day I was leaving for my freshman year of college. We shared all the growing pains of adolescence. Including the betrayal and loss of my boyfriend to a younger classmate. I’ll never forget his unconditional love and support.

  2. carol L

    How times have changed. I too walked about a mile to school at 5 back in the 50’s. But had siblings to walk with. I had a dog King. and he would walk all the way to school with us. We were so afraid he’d get hurt going back alone but couldn’t stop him. One day I’m sitting at my desk and who gallops in but King. 🙂 To him it was a joy seeing all my classmates, having a ball. It ended up that my brother was called down to walk him home again because he was the oldest. He wasn’t too happy. And don’t you know when we came out 5 hours later he was waiting. 🙂
    The book sounds wonderful.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  3. Judy S

    I have a cavalier King Charles Spaniel and he adds such joy to my life. He follows me everywhere! He has his quirky behaviors and a lovely personality. I’m definitely lucky with him.

  4. Teresa Williams

    Our landlord doesn’t allow pets but we have a granddog .My granddaughter has a blue pit that we love to visit and play with.

  5. Robin Thompson

    I had a dog named Gypsy who thought she was a Mom to everything except other dogs. Cats, lambs, even skunks (THEY didn’t appreciate it!) She was the most compassionate being I’ve ever met

  6. isisthe12th

    I had the best dog in the world! Her name was Sheba. She died a few years ago and I miss her terribly. I found her as a pup and she lived to be about 12 years old. A good companion and friend. Thank you

  7. lraines78

    I don’t have a dog but when I did it was so nice being greeted when I came home from work. She was like a child to us.

  8. Nancy Luebke

    We had this little ball of fur left on our doorstep, and it turned out to be mostly sheepdog. This dog was very protective of not just us but all the animals on our farm. He always made me feel safe. My hubby worked the night shift a lot. So I was alone with our son out in the country a lot. I learned to shoot a 22 and had this and another dog with us when we went walking. Fluffy was a good dog and protector on our farm.

  9. Kate Sparks

    We’ve had a black cocker spaniel and 2 Welsh terriers. They did add drama to our lives!

  10. Joye

    I recently lost my Jack Russell terrier of 15 years . Couldn’t be without a dog so got a rescue puppy. The vet thinks it is part terrier and poodle. Really cute.
    I should have named her Spunky because she is. Her name is Katie and she brings a lot of happiness. And she doesn’t talk back!

  11. Elizabeth Schroedle

    I have a little rescue dog named Dexter. He is such a happy dog and his tail is always wagging. We go for walks twice a day because he likes to explore the neighborhood and meet other dogs. He enjoys a good belly rub while I’m sitting on the couch reading.

  12. Kay Garrett

    Our fur-baby is our 13 year old Chihuahua. He’s name is Snickerdoodle and he’s the apple of our eye!

    We got Snickerdoodle when he was 6 weeks old on January 2, 2004. He’s been one special little boy that has brightened several people’s lives. First, when I was a kid growing up we had dogs for pets but I’ve never known my Dad to get so attached to one like he did Snickerdoodle. They were inseparable. Dad use to laugh and say he was his nap partner while Mom and I were cleaning house. We lost Dad in July of that same year.

    Snickerdoodle knew he had lost his best bud but he shuffled all his luvin’ to my Mom. In fact, he went to live with her for about six months so she wouldn’t be all alone. Each giving the other attention and some much needed hugs and kisses.

    Move forward few years, Mom came to live with us after a nasty cancer surgery and the fast onset of Alzheimer. Through it all, he was a stress reliever to me and constant companion to Mom who knew who he was up until she went to her heavenly home in the spring of 2014.

    After years of first helping and then becoming full time caregiver, all of sudden there was no one needing me. Until I looked around and there was Snickerdoodle. He’s kept us busy at times that it was best not to be too still. He’s laid beside us when we just needed to rest. He’s ready to go when we decide it’s time to get out of here. He just knows when to be around and when he can just go lay on his pillow or look out the window.

    During all our years together, all he’s ever asked for is for us to feed him and love him. What he has given back is unmeasurable! Love – the two way communication between fur-baby and his humans!

  13. Mary C

    My dog crossed the rainbow bridge. He was a wonderful companion on my walks for twelve years , loved to meet people and was a great source of comfort in bad/sad times.

  14. Shannon Capelle

    I have a furbaby chihuahua and she makes me happy no matter what mood im in and is always there for me! Love her so much!

  15. Jana Leah

    I do not have a dog now, however, I grew up with a beagle. She made me laugh on a daily basis.

  16. BookLady

    My dog Sandy was very loving and always made me smile when I was sad. She was a wonderful companion and my very best friend.

  17. Lisa Richards

    When the last of my three kids left for college, for the first time in 30+ years, I didn’t have any kids at home. If Chloe, our furbaby, hadn’t been there to keep me company, I’m not sure if I’d had survived the quietness of our home. We lost her about a year ago but still have not been able to replace her.

  18. diannekc

    I had a dog named Stitch and she was born with badly deformed back legs. She taught me that you can do anything you want. Nothing stopped her, not stairs, getting on the bed. And she gave me with all her heart.

  19. LauraJJ

    We have two labs we adopted as puppies that had some anxiety problems and needed to be homed together. They are brother and sister and so sweet. They have come so far! They brighten our days….push me off the bed at night…..give me sore arms throwing tennis balls….and I would not have it any other way! 🙂

  20. Jen Karalfa

    Dogs just give you unconditional love. They’ll snuggle with you when you’re down or not feeling well. I don’t have any pets of my own, but when I need that puppy love, I just have to visit either or my sisters or my parents.

  21. Patricia B.

    There have been many dogs in my life, most of them since I got married. Growing up, our family never really had a dog. With 6 children, a pet was an expense my parents couldn’t afford, at least not to take care of properly. When I was in elementary school, the collie that belonged to a family about 1/4 mile or so up the road sort of adopted our family. I have a feeling their children were grown and gone and the dog missed them. He would come to our house every day, spend time with us kids and go home at night. Perfect as far as my parents were concerned because we didn’t have to feed him or worry about vet bills. Laddie (that is what we called him. I never met the owners and have no idea what their name was for him) was very protective and kept a sharp eye on us all. I remember one day, my baby sister was crawling on the patio towards a fireplace that we had made by just stacking flagstones. It wasn’t solid or very stable. The dog lay down between her and the fire place and kept her away from it. He would play with the older children chasing us and running through the fields with us. Unfortunately, he chased cars and was hit in front of our house one night. It broke my heart. That was bout 60 years ago. Since getting married, my husband and I have had about a dozen dogs that were keepers. We did foster care for the animal shelter raising litters of puppies until they were old enough to adopt out. Of them all, our first , a beagle, and one who died a couple of years ago, a lab mix, have been our favorites. Both lived to be 17. We currently have 3 and one is a terrier mix from the last litter we fostered. she is almost 17. Thanks for bring back good memories of the first dog in my life.
    Boxcar Christmas sounds like it will be a very enjoyable story. We volunteer at the local VA hospital and know how important dogs are to the vets there. The service dogs they are able to get make such a big difference in their lives. The visiting therapy dogs are welcomed visitors when they come. We have two friends that bring their dogs and I have met another gentleman who brings his wolf hounds. They are gorgeous.

  22. wendy rinebold

    We got a new puppy recently and we love him so much. After losing our dog of 10 years, he was such a wonderful addition to the family.

  23. stacey trim

    My dog passed away two days before Christmas. I miss her very much. My dad also misses her. He accidentally bought her a treat the other day and he started crying going down the road when he realized what he had done

  24. Carrie G

    Oliver came to me a year ago and 2 days. My best friend. Never knew how much i could love a little dog he is a little yorkie with a big personality. My Little man, my baby. My everything. My son

Please leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.