While writing my latest release, The Cattleman Meets His Match, I had a wonderful time envisioning how the plains must have looked all those years ago. While many things have changed, many things remain the same. Years ago I had a chance to visit Old Baldy near Lynch, Nebraska, the hill near where Louis and Clark trapped their first prairie dog. There’s something humbling about realizing how much our past and futures are connected by the landscape.
Human nature has remained much the same over the years as well. The Greek tragedies still speak to us because people still feel the same emotions: hate, love, jealousy, rage. Everything. Some things never change.
That’s why writing something as simple as a group of people sitting around a campfire was intriguing. There’s something mesmerizing about fire and flames, stars in the sky, and crickets in the background. I had my characters tell scary stories around the campfire. I heard a lonesome harmonica in the distance…
I suppose people have always sung around the campfire as well. Songs have been vehicles to pass down stories through histories. Would my characters have sung Billy Boy?
Oh where have you been, Billy Boy,
Oh where have you been, charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife,
She’s the joy of my life,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother
Would they sing about Buffalo Gals:
As I was walking down the street
Down the street, down the street,
A pretty gal I chance to meet
Under the silvery moon.
Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight?
Come out tonight, Come out tonight?
Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight,
And dance by the light of the moon.
Or perhaps The Turkey in the Straw:
As I was a-gwine down the road,
With a tired team and a heavy load,
I crack’d my whip and the leader sprung,
I says day-day to the wagon tongue.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll ‘em up and twist ‘em up a high tuckahaw
And twist ‘em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw
Have you ever sat around the campfire and spun a yarn or hummed a ballad? What’s your favorite song?
One commentor will receive a copy of The Cattleman Meets His Match – Digital or Paperback.
Cowboy John Elder needs a replacement crew of cattle hands to drive his longhorns to Kansas—he just never figured they’d be wearing petticoats. Traveling with Moira O’Mara and the orphan girls in her care is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Yet despite Moira’s declaration of independence, the feisty beauty evokes John’s every masculine instinct to protect, defend…marry?
Moira is grateful for John’s help when he rescues her—and she can’t deny that his calm, in-control manner proves comforting. But she is determined not to let anything get in the way of her plans to search for her long-lost brother at journey’s end. However, can John show her a new future—one perfect for them to share?
I put all the names in my ten gallon hat and………..
The Winner is………………
Congratulations, Laurie! Woo-Hoo! I’m dancing a jig for you. Miss Valerie will contact you with information on how to claim your prize.
Helena, Montana, had more millionaires per capita in 1889 than anywhere else in the world.
When Angela Breidenbach and I came across that bit of information, we knew we’d found the setting for Snowflake Tiara, the beauty pageant duo we’d been itching to write.
Angie set her novella, The Debutante Queen, against that backdrop. Inn-owner Albert Shanahan is worried about the future of Helena as the gold frenzy dies down. He doesn’t want his city to become a ghost town like so many gold rush sites, and devises the Miss Snowflake Pageant to showcase the beauty of Helena and its debutantes. If only he can get Miss Calista Blythe to enter the pageant, other young women will flock to join, ensuring both a successful event and successful placement of Helena as a cultured city in the eyes of the world.
Miss Calista Blythe fears being in the spotlight, but the plight of the orphan children (Helena is reputed to be the last stop on the orphan train) spurs her to action. She’s particularly focused on six-year-old Lea, who’s indentured to a brothel when her mother died before working off her westward train fare. Perhaps, if she wins the pageant, she can purchase Lea’s freedom.
Angela tucked so many bits of real history into this story it makes my head spin. Although the pageant itself and the story’s main characters are completely fictional, many of the other characters are part of Helena’s history, as are many of the background events. Yet you never feel like you’re reading a documentary. Angie’s love of Montana shines through every page.
I’m so honored to be the second author in this duo, following up with a contemporary tale featuring Calista’s 3x great-granddaughter, Marisa Hiller. Like her ancestor, Marisa is passionate about helping underprivileged children, and this is her primary reason for competing in the revived Miss Snowflake Pageant in Helena.
Angela and I enjoyed a research trip to Helena about a year ago. We toured the State Capitol and the Cathedral of St Helena, both resplendent with gold, marble, stained glass, and other trappings of the city’s wealth. Both were completed not long after Angela’s story takes place. We explored the museum, took a tourist “train ride” through the city, and roved the walking mall (several city blocks closed to vehicular traffic) where Last Chance Gulch once lay.
We interviewed the owner of The Parrot Confectionery (est 1922), the setting for several scenes in my novella, More Than a Tiara, and bought some candy—strictly for research purposes, you understand. We viewed the site of the Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium (the only indoor swimming pool in the world in 1889), featured in Angie’s story, but now just a grassy field. And we drove up one block and down the next in the Mansion District, where many of the red-rock homes built in the late 1800s still stand in good repair.
Montana celebrates its 125th anniversary this fall, while Helena itself is now 150 years old. Join us in commemoration!
Snowflake Tiara: What if you were caught doing something good, but the man you loved didn’t see it that way?
The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT): Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But if her hidden indentured orphan is discovered, Calista’s reputation and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, could both unravel. Will love or law prevail?
More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT): Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip zero zilch when she discovers the official photographer is Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?
Valerie and Angie will be giving away one Kindle copy of Snowflake Tiara to a lucky reader, so be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!
The winner of a signed copy of
Tried and True
I will contact you, Alisa to find out where to send your book.
Thank you all for talking with us at
Petticoats and Pistols
With Tina Radcliffe
Hi Fillies! Thanks for having me in your corral. I wanted to share my confusion with you today. Why keep it all to myself?
Cowboys. When I moved to Oklahoma I saw nothing but cowboy hats and pickup trucks. I lived there for 17 years before moving to Colorado and spent many a day wondering what sort of head was under those hats. Lots of rodeos at the state fair too. Lots of cowboys.
I rarely saw a cowboy hat in Denver or the surrounding area in the next 19 years. Only when the Western Stock Show came to town. Were there no cowboys in Colorado? Yes, I discovered, they are alive and well, but strangely enough not a one of them lives in the suburbs of Denver. You heard it right. None at my local Starbucks ordering a mocha frappe with extra whipped cream.
With the launch of my latest release from Harlequin Love Inspired, Stranded with the Rancher (here’s Niall Matter, the actor who is the inspiration for my rancher .) I spent a lot of time researching cowboys.
Here’s some of what I learned along the way:
-According to the US Cattle Industry quotes, the US Department of Agriculture 2007 Census:
“There are more than 1 million beef producers in the United States who are responsible for more than 94 million head of beef cattle. When it comes to beef cattle production, most operations are smaller than you might think; according to USDA, the majority of beef cattle operations (79%) have less than 50 head of cattle. Although cattle farms and ranches are spread across the United State, nearly a third of cattle operations are located in the Plains states.”
-Beef cattle production is the single largest segment of American agriculture. (This is great! Cows = Cowboys!)
-90% is consumed domestically and 10% is exported.
-There’s another blogging rancher out there (besides Mary Connealy). Check out Feedyard Foodie.
-Deep Hollow Ranch, 110 miles (180 km) east of New York City in Montauk, New York, claims to be the first ranch in the United States, having continuously operated since 1658.-Wikipedia. Is that crazy or what? Puts an interesting spin on the Pace (NEW YORK CITY??) commercial.
-From the National Cattleman’s Association 2014 Cattle inventory (as of July 1, 2014)
Number of beef cow operations: 729,000
Number of cattle & calf operations: 915,000 – 29.0 million beef cows (down 1%)
The average cow herd size: 40 head (FORTY???? SERIOUSLY??)
Average producer (rancher/cowboy) age: 58.3. (Yep. They are getting older!)
More than 50 percent of the total value of U.S. sales of cattle and calves comes from the top 5 states:
The big question? Where ARE the cowboys? The answer is that they are in ALL 50 states. That’s right. Every single state in the US produces cattle. Here’s the January 1, 2014 stats. They are in our own backyard.
Great sources of cowboy information:
The Last American Cowboy: Season 1
And especially the movie City Slickers. (snort)
Oh, and it really helps to have a friend who is married to a cowboy and lives on a ranch in Nebraska.
So what do you think about my trivia? Leave a comment for a chance to win my friend from Nebraska. No, wait, I mean a copy of my latest release, Stranded with the Rancher. Two winners.. International readers will be sent a Kindle copy.
The Doctor and the Cowboy
Stranded at single father Dan Gallagher’s ranch during a Colorado blizzard, Dr. Beth Rogers is counting the days till the roads are clear. She can’t wait to leave for her exciting new life in New York. But suddenly the big-city doctor is delivering babies in log cabins, helping to feed newborn calves and teaching Dan’s little girl to play hymns on the piano. No-nonsense Beth even throws a snowball or two at the handsome, love-shy cowboy. She thought she had her heart set on leaving, so why does she dream of Dan asking her to stay forever?
Tina Radcliffe writes fun, inspirational romance for Love Inspired. She is a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist and a 2014 Carol Award finalist in the short novel category, with her first Paradise book, Mending the Doctor’s Heart. Her latest Paradise book, Stranded with the Rancher is a September release. The next Paradise book releases in June 2015. She’s also teaching Self-Editing for Beginners in October in Seekerville’s Night Classes.
Miss Valerie writes with Angela Breidenbach and is full of tidbits about the history of Helena, Montana.
She’ll share some of those as she tells us about her book called SNOWFLAKE TIARA.
And you’ll be thrilled to know she’s toting a Kindle copy to give away.
Rise and shine on Saturday and hightail it over here.
Join the party and have some fun!
I thought it might be fun to show you some of what goes into creating a story. So I found the original proposal I sent to my publisher Bethany House. (Honestly I was hoping I ended up writing something at least SIMILAR to that proposal, heaven knows things change as I write.)
Here was the overall idea I had for the series.
Three sisters fought in the Civil War disguised as men. They were pressured by their father to avenge their older brother who died in battle. After all those years, without being revealed as women, they now qualify for homestead exemptions, with their years of fighting reducing the years needed to prove up on a homestead.
Living in western Wyoming on 160 acres each, with their father owning the fourth homestead, they have a real nice spread tucked into the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a remote area where they can live as they please and no one needs to notice the Wilde family is made up of three sisters.
They’ve gotten away with it by staying to themselves. They homesteaded in the fall, spent the Wyoming winter mostly snowed in but now it’s summer and they’ve avoided town. They’ll have to spend their lives has hermits to get away with this.
And maybe they could do that, except they’ve stepped on the toes of a big rancher who wants to drive the nesters off his land.
Then I added this later, after I’d written a while:
Aaron Masterson, the hero from book #1 is fond of saying of all the sisters, “You might have passed yourselves off as young boys during the war but only a fool would believe you’re men now. And Cage Coulter is no fool.” (Cage Coulter, the hero of book #3) They’ve gotten away with it by staying to themselves. Aaron sees Kylie first dressed in her girl clothes. Then he comes to see her ‘brother’ Kyle and figures out he’s Kylie in about ten minutes, in the dark, with Kylie wearing a hat pulled low over her eyes. So there’s not going to be an extended awkward creepy Aaron-feeling-uncomfortably-attracted-to-a-man issue. I’m intending each book to go like that with the opening dispensing with the disguise almost instantly for each of the Wilde women.
Now for the characters of book one, Tried and True, note I called it Wild at Heart, which we ended up with as the series title.
Wild at Heart
Kylie Wilde, youngest daughter of Cudgel Wilde, is the ladylike one who has more experience living as a woman than her sisters. (Elizabeth Hasselbeck with hazel eyes and not this blonde-I’d like streaked hair to match her eyes) As the youngest she was more indulged than her older sisters and has learned a few feminine wiles and she can’t resist using them.
In defiance of her family she’s grown her hair long and wears dresses when she’s home alone.
Aaron, reflecting on Kylie’s hazel eyes: He’d had one good look at her eyes before they’d filled with tears and she’d buried her face against his chest. They were different, deep and haunting. Striped eyes that radiated out brown and green and gold from the black center like a flashing starburst explosion used to light up a field during night battles.
And one look at those eye left him feeling like his life had just lit up.
Kylie’s hair: Honey brown curls sun-streaked with yellow tumbled down around Kylie Wilde’s falsely-padded shoulders.
Her big sisters have pulled her out of one scrape after another as she sets up a homestead. Her dream is to prove up on her land, sell it and move to some civilized city far away from cold, harsh Wyoming.
Aaron Masterson is a former officer in the Union Army. (Simon Baker) Aaron is a VERY tall, blue-eyed blond Dane. 6’4. When the war was over, he went home, but the valley was plagued by Confederate Raiders and old hatreds so deep to stay home was to die. It sent Aaron west. As a favor to an old commanding officer, he’s agreed to help ease the land rush of homesteaders in Wyoming by acting as a land agent which puts him right in the path of the fraudulent Wilde ‘brothers’.
(Since there is no man on the cover we can go ahead and have Aaron look like Simon Baker forever.) :)
And then the story–I didn’t include the whole proposal because in a proposal I always tell the whole story. A publisher isn’t interested (well, maybe they are) in having a partial story dangled in front of them. They want to know beginning-middle-end. Well, I’m not pasting the whole story in here, that seems unwise. So here’s about half of it.
Tried and True:
Aaron meets a pretty young woman—a rare thing out west. Aaron is immediately interested. While talking to Kylie, Aaron realizes her ‘brother’ fought in the same regiment as Aaron. By the time Kylie realizes what she’s revealed, Aaron is eager to come and visit with her brother.
Aaron goes out to the ranch. Kylie barely has time to get there before him and get into her manly disguise. She introduces herself as Kyle Wilde.
Aaron soon enough he realizes Kyle and Kylie are one and the same. Aaron realizes Kylie is defrauding the government because women can’t claim the homestead exemption, only soldiers, but Aaron knows she served but women can’t serve. She knows too much about the battles he was in to be lying about that. He’s torn between the letter of the law and simple justice. She fought in the war. Why shouldn’t she get credit for those years of service?
Aaron soon realizes that, though Kylie helps, her big brothers are doing most of the work. Aaron spends all his free time on her homestead helping. He wants to take her away when his work as a land agent is done, but she has distrusted her father and seen ugliness during the war, though she was considered a very young boy. Yes, she wants a husband and marriage but she needs her own money. She wants a civilized home and time to choose a husband wisely. She does not want to be stuck in a remote mountain ranch for the rest of her life, which is where Aaron is planning to move once his job as land agent is over.
Aaron can make her give up her land by revealing she’s a woman to the authorities. If he betrays her, she’ll never marry him. If he supports her, she intends to live for the next three years as a man, then sell her land and use the money to move back east to a city, exactly where Aaron doesn’t want to go.
Someone’s got to give up their dream.
That’s it, the roots of Tried and True and the tease for the whole Wilde at Heart series. To celebrate the new release of Tried and True I’m giving away a copy today to one lucky commenter.
Such a dear lady who shares a love for cowboys. She’ll fit in perfectly here. Hee-Hee! One thing for sure…cowboys are serious business here at the Junction! We can talk for days about this subject!
Miss Tina has a new book out called STRANDED WITH THE RANCHER…
AND she’s giving away two copies! Woo-Hoo!
Come Friday get yourself over here. Join the chat and hopefully win.
Don’t forget now!