Category: New Releases

HOW DEEP DO YOUR ROOTS GO? by JODI THOMAS

How deep do your roots go?

I’m from dry land farmers and people who ran small ranches that never made much money.  I know the movies have the stories about powerful ranchers who own more land than they can ride across in a day, but that’s not the people I’m from.


My grandparents met at a barn raising in Texas, just over the Red River from Oklahoma.  They spent the day together, wrote letters for a year, then he rode back across the Red to pick her up.  She had the wagon packed with her hope chest and all they’d need.  They were married that day.  She was fifteen and he was eighteen. They crossed back over the Red into Oklahoma Territory and started farming.

My dad was their youngest son and he said they looked old when he was born. If he was alive, my father would be a 100 this year.

All this said, sometimes I feel close to the past.  Like it’s just around the corner out of reach.  I might have an iPhone and an Apple computer, but their blood still flows in me.  I’m from farm folks….

Or, so I thought….the blood must be thinning.

My son, who has a master’s in Criminal Justice and works in loss prevention for a national chain, was told he could work from home last month.  Three weeks later he bought a farm in the middle of nowhere.  My GPS told me I was 31 miles out.  Two hours later I’m still circling every County Road looking for him.  Who knew two ruts in the tall grass was a road?

I couldn’t wait to see his land, his farm.  We traveled across Texas, 10 hours, with three ducks riding in a tub in the back of our van.  Once, when Tom stopped fast one of the ducks flew out and landed just behind my sister.  She didn’t seem to like the duck eating her hair.

 

So all tired we pulled into a beautiful, green farm.

My son, whose time outside city lights can be counted in weeks, greets us with a warning that he shot a coral snake this morning.

Coral snake.  I start trying to remember that ‘black touch red or black touch yellow’ but have no idea which is a friendly fellow.

I jump out.  I have to walk the land!  Get back to my roots! They’ve got chickens and ducks.  A stream.  Not exactly The Red, but too big for me to cross.

The fire ants were not welcoming—enough said.

We let the ducks out and they loved their bath.

Tom thought he’d pet a chicken.  By accident, I’m sure, the chicken put a deep scratch along Tom’s arm.  This chicken was not a cuddler.

But, we were in Heaven.  We were on the land.  I had no idea how noisy it is at night.  Or how early the sun comes up without heavy drapes.

Then about dawn the first day, I picked up my Apple, curled up in the porch swing and found Heaven.

I’m from the land, you know.  I was home.

I hope you’ll feel just that way when you read my new book, INDIGO LAKE.  Come along with me on this journey and when you finish maybe you’ll say “I’m from the land.”

When I began writing the Ransom Canyon series, a very dear friend gave me a Ransom Canyon T-shirt to inspire me. It sat by my desk and was never worn. I would like to give that shirt to one of my special readers who might know—How do you get rid of fire ants without killing the chickens?”

Love you all,  Jodi Thomas

I LOVE STORIES ABOUT THE WILD WEST

  We’re delighted to welcome our guest,  Anne Greene.  Anne has graciously offered to give away three autographed copies of SPUR OF THE MOMENT BRIDE. (Sweepstake guidelines apply)

I love stories about the wild west, and horses, feisty women, and best of all cowboys. I live in Texas, and though most of the men I meet in my fast-growing town are regular-type men wearing business suits or jogging outfits or casual wear, on occasion I run into a real cowboy. I gape at him with his tight jeans, fitted shirt, cowboy boots, rodeo trophy belt buckle, and black Stetson.

But today the modern cowboy, rather than ride a horse, drives an enormous black truck with a rifle slung across the back window of his double-cab. I wrote about such a cowboy, except he rode a black Harley motorcycle, in my soon to be released book, Mystery At Dead Broke Ranch.

When I was single I even dated a real cowboy, and he delighted in showing me his trophy belt buckle and talking about his rodeo exploits. He was handsome too. So much so that I didn’t feel we were a match. But the few dates I allowed with him were fun. He even let me ride his horse.

My newest released book, Firecracker Bride, takes place in Texas, near the historic Alamo. Cat Divine resists stage robbers, her demanding father, gossiping neighbors, and flash floods. But can she resist Travis McGuire, a hero with a heart and bravery as big as his Texas home?

Seems many of my books are set in Wyoming rather than Texas. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. I love Texas, but I enjoy visiting Wyoming. My book, A Christmas Belle, is set in Wyoming. Amanda is a southern belle who becomes a Mail Order Bride. She expects to marry a Wyoming cowboy, but the Wyoming Sheriff puts duty before love.

Felicity discovers Ben at Fort Laramie in A Groom For Christmas.

When I’m not writing about sheriffs, I’m writing about stagecoach drivers. In today’s give-away book, SPUR OF THE MOMENT BRIDE, heiress Abby Hollister’s Papa demands she stop toying with young men’s hearts and marry within a month or be disinherited. She determines to become a mail-order bride and travel to untamed Laramie, Wyoming. Abby creates a list of characteristics she expects for her prospective husband and sets off to claim the perfect mate and secure her personal fortune.

Stage coach driver, Zach Tyler likes his exciting job where he outsmarts robbers and Indians and keeps the stage running regardless of weather, break-downs, and ornery passengers. But passenger Abby Hollister proves to be an unusual challenge. He protects her on the journey to Laramie, but in that town women are as scarce as a bird’s nest in a cuckoo clock, and men go crazy when the beauty arrives seeking a husband.

My own hero husband isn’t a cowboy, but he looks like one when we go Texas Two-Stepping. He wears his tight jeans, fitted shirt, and cowboy boots. And he’s tall, lanky, and laid-back. But he’s not the strong, silent type. He’s the strong, talkative type. And I love him with all my heart. And he rides a Harley.

But, I am certain I shall write many more western stories because I do so love cowboys!

Be sure to visit me at http://www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com.

So what do you like most about cowboys?

 

 

ABOUT ANNE GREENE: My home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas. My dear husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. My little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares my writing space, curled at my feet. I have four beautiful, talented children, and eight grandchildren who keep me running.

I’ve traveled in every location of each book I’ve written, and each book is a book of my heart. Besides my first love, writing, I enjoy travel, art, sports, reading, sailing, snorkeling, movies, and way too many other things to mention. Life is good. Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” Whether writing contemporary or historical, my books celebrate the abundant life Jesus gives.

 

Updated: June 23, 2017 — 11:26 am

The Story Behind the Story of GRAY HAWK’S LADY

Howdy & Good Day!

Whether you’re joining us in the morning, afternoon or evening, welcome!

Today I thought I’d tell the story of the writing of the book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY, a tale deeply enshrined in my heart.  This story has just recently been re-released at Amazon, and because it is so special to me, I thought I’d give away a free ebook of the story today to some lucky blogger.

GrayHawksLady_v1Believe it or not, the story starts with a kiss.  But let me backtrack.  I had in 1992-1993 gone through a divorce and had come back to California, because I’ve considered it home ever since I was 18 and fell in love with it.  Unfortunately for me, I jumped right into a relationship that was very bad for…many reasons.  After that relationship, I wanted nothing to do with men, love, marriage again.  Sigh…

The year was now 1995 and I was on my own and definitely enjoying being on my own.  One of my best friends (whom I had known since 1970) was pushing me to go on a blind date.  I didn’t want to go and I told her I wanted nothing to do with men, relationships, marriage, dating…nothing…

But she insisted and I found my self consenting to one date.  That was in January of 1996.  I had a book due to my publisher in July of 1996, but had plenty of time to write it and had, indeed, started writing it when I went on this first date.

family1[1]So off I went on this first ever in my life blind date.  The gentleman picked me up at my house and I noticed he was wearing cowboy boots and being very interested in the West and Cowboys and Indians, this was great.  He was also born and raised in Montana, and I was very interested in Montana since the story of GRAY HAWK’ S LADY was to take place in Montana.

The date was good, okay.  We went out to eat, but I was left with the impression that he wasn’t really interested in me.  So, I put it behind me.  He never called, never asked me back out and never told me what was happening and so eventually, just to end my wondering about it, I called my friend, told her I was sorry it hadn’t worked out and … well, so long sort of thing.  To my surprise she wouldn’t let it go — I had just wanted to put it behind me.  She said, “Oh, no, he’s really interested in you.”  and I said, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.  Let’s just put the whole thing behind us.”  And she said, “No, I’m sure he really liked you.”

30002_391822494010_760039010_4043017_7176149_n[1]So she called his brother, who then talked to him, and the upshot of it all was that Paul then called me and asked me for another date.  Well, it had been a good first date, I thought, and he was a nice gentleman and perhaps we could be friends, I thought.  So I accepted.

Little did I know what was in store.  On the second date, we were both more relaxed, held hands, and I thought, okay, we’ll be friends.  He took me home, walked me to the door and just as I was about ready to go inside, he took me in his arms and kissed me.  Now, it was quite some kiss.  He meant it. And I was more than ready to receive it.   His hands caressed my cheeks, my eyes, my face, my hair, my neck. It went on and on and on, and when he was done, I felt a little drunk.  I think I stared at him and for the first time, I said to myself, “Who is this man?”  Indeed, I wanted more.

roadtr40[1]Well, that was that.  We had a date the next week, and within 2-3 weeks, I had moved in with him and we were married in May 1996.  Our first date was February 3rd 1996.  So it definitely was a whirlwind romance.

Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY.  Well, a lot, I’m afraid.  I was in the middle of writing that book, and I fell so deeply in love with this man, who is now my husband, that of course that love was written all over the printed pages of GRAY HAWK’S LADY.  That first kiss and my Samhain_RWA2012_IMG_0292_Webemotional reaction to it is recorded in that work.  Also, my gradual coming to understand that this man was the most important man in my life is in that book.  His calmness, his teasing, his care…it’s all written there as I fell head over heels in love.  Over to the right here is a recent photo of us.

14-smooch[1]Did I mention that my earring (the night of that first kiss) fell off — and I have pierced ears!…

In May of this year, we were married for 21 years.  Interestingly enough I still have the pictures of our wedding on my website http://www.novels-by-KarenKay.com — can’t bring myself to take them down, even though 21 years more or less have gone by now.  People sometimes write to me and congratulate me on my recent marriage — and I smile.  To me, in many ways, it does seem like a recent marriage, as I fall in love with this man all over again every day.  I told him recently (only a few days ago) that for me it seems as if our time together has been like a fairy-tale romance (again, knock on wood).

galler6[1]I love this man with all my heart — and as the years have gone by, that love grows and grows and grows.   He stole my heart with that first kiss and that love goes on and on and on.  (I’ll knock on wood here.)  As the — gee, was it the Ronettes that once sang the song, “And Then He Kissed Me,” —  it has always seemed to me that it started with that kiss.    Ah, sweet!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog today.  Again, I’ll be giving away a free copy of this ebook to some lucky blogger, so do leave a message.GrayHawksLady_v1

And if you haven’t done so before, pick up your copy of GRAY HAWK’S LADY today!

https://www.amazon.com/Gray-Hawks-Lady-Blackfoot-Warriors-ebook/dp/B0723B3VCM/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497836377&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=GRAY+HAWK%27S+LADY+by+Karen+Kay&tag=pettpist-20

Updated: June 18, 2017 — 8:44 pm

Houston Legend Spills All

Last month I released book #2 of my Men of Legend series–THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY! I’m still excited. Can you tell? This marriage of convenience story has gotten a lot of attention.

Today, I’ve caught up with Houston Legend, one of Stoker’s three sons. I have to tell you, I’m a little tongue-tied. All six-feet-four-inches of this brooding handsome hunk is sitting across from me and his dark eyes are making me awfully fidgety. Oh my!

I guess I’d best get started before the perspiration seeps through my clothes—or else I grab him and kiss him.

Q: Now, Houston honey, why exactly did you marry Lara Boone, a woman you’d never met, after vowing to never take a wife?

A growl rumbles in Houston’s throat.  “I had to clean up my father’s mess. During a weekend of drinking and gambling, Stoker loses half of our ranch. Two hundred and forty thousand acres disappeared overnight. Still makes me mad enough to cuss, except I don’t do that in front of a lady. All that hard work, sacrifice, and sweat for nothing. Gone. (Houston snaps his fingers.) Just like that. And then, he tells me that I can get it back—by marrying the daughter of the new owner and giving her baby a name.

I tell you, that was closest I ever came to hitting my father. In fact, the urge was so strong, I had to leave the room before I did. Finally, after some soul-searching, I agreed. I’d give Lara Boone and her baby my name—but I had the vow to love her stricken from the marriage ceremony. Love wasn’t part of the deal. I’d make them comfortable and keep them safe, but that was all I signed up for.”

Q: Tell me about that ceremony and seeing Lara for the first time.

Houston pinches the bridge of his nose and lowers his head just a little. “I wasn’t prepared for the pain in that woman’s eyes, the shame of resorting to this, and the clear fact she hated having to marry as much as I did. I thought she was some gold-digger, wanting to trap a man, but that wasn’t the case at all. In the days that followed, I discovered how sensitive and kind Lara is. Her intelligence about ranching really took me by surprise. Who would’ve thought a woman would care about the ranch, much less know anything about the running of one.”

Q: So you put together a cattle drive and Lara went along to cook. When did you know trouble was coming?

A hard glint fills Houston’s eyes. “I saw riders trailing us the morning of the third day and my gut said they were up to something. I soon learned they were after Lara—abduct or kill, didn’t much matter to them. They were hell-bent on getting her. And here we were in Indian Territory with no law anywhere. Those outlaws gave us quite a time. (Houston gave me a little heartstopping grin.) I kinda spoiled their plan. They found out about Legend justice.”

Q: I can just imagine. I hear there was quite a fight.

Houston shifts in his chair and his voice turns to granite. “Yuma Blackstone started picking us off one by one and we couldn’t catch him. Indian Territory has thousands of places to hide. We started pushing the herd faster as hard as we could. Posted guards in camp and I ordered drovers to do everything in pairs. After burying two men, we had a bloody fight to the finish. For a time there, I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. I was down to my last bullet and figured to make it count. Suddenly a band of Cherokees rode from out of nowhere and helped up. Me and my brothers came awful close to dying that day.

Q: I hear you and Lara fell in love on that cattle drive. How do you feel about her now?”

Houston relaxes and stretches his long legs out in front of him. “That pretty woman lights up my world. I can’t imagine life without her. I’m happier than I’ve been in my life. And she and kiss—boy, how she can kiss. She sends a hunger through me like I’ve never seen. The best part of my day is when we lie down at night, sharing not only a bed, but hopes and dreams too. Lord, how I love her. She’s everything to me.

Thank you, Houston honey. I know you’re a very busy man so I’ll let you get back to running the Lone Star. Readers, if you want suspense, danger, and a big helping of romance, pick up this book and dive in. It’s quite a journey.

Leave a comment telling me one of your favorite cowboy book heroes and get your name entered in a drawing for a copy of this one. If you already have it, you can choose one of my other ones. Oh and you get to choose either print or ebook. 

Third Time’s A Charm

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I have a new book out this month and I thought that today I’d share with you a little bit on how it came to be.  Sometimes the stories we write come to us easily and sometimes they take a very roundabout path. A Tailor-Made Husband is an example of the later. This is the ninth book set in the world of Turnabout, Texas (FYI they are all totally standalone) and my hero and heroine will be familiar to any readers who have been keeping up with the series.

Ward Gleason, the steadfast town sheriff, has made an appearance in just about every book since Handpicked Husband, the first book in the series. Hazel Andrews, the town’s seamstress, first popped up in book two, The Bride Next Door, and she really made a splash in book six, Second Chance Hero, where she was the heroine’s flamboyant best friend.  It was originally my intent to have book seven be their story. In fact, I thought I set it up nicely when I mentioned Hazel’s long standing but unrequited crush on the town’s sheriff.

The problem was, because I’d dropped those hints in the earlier book without much forethought, I’d boxed myself in. I not only had to figure out just why Ward would ignore Hazel’s obvious interest, but I also had to find a way to add a little extra zip when I’m starting with a heroine who is already in love with the hero.  I actually got pretty far along into my first version of the book before it became apparent it wasn’t going to work. I decided to put their story on hold and work on another of the stories I’d planned for the series while I gave it a bit more thought. Once I turned in book seven, The Holiday Courtship, I took another run at it. But again, after quite a bit of work, it became obvious this new story wouldn’t work either. So again I moved on to another book in the series, and Texas Cinderella was the outcome.

By this time, I was determined to give Ward and Hazel their turn in the spotlight.  And, with the help of some friends who are not only willing to listen to me whine without judging me, but are excellent brainstorming buddies, I finally came up with a story that I felt was worthy of this couple.  And I’m really excited about the way it turned out. I hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
So what about you – have you ever had a situation where things just weren’t coming together for you and you had to take a step back and regroup?

Leave a comment and you’ll get your name in the hat for a chance to win a copy of A Tailor-Made Husband, or any book of your choice from my backlist.

Below is an excerpt from A Tailor-Made Husband.

Ward frowned. Surely Hazel hadn’t meant that the way it sounded? “You mean you’re taking your annual trip back east early?” Her mother had come from New York and Hazel still had family there that she visited regularly.

“No.” She tucked a stray tendril behind her ear. “I mean I’m moving to New York permanently.”

Turnabout without Hazel’s vibrant presence? He couldn’t quite picture it. Trying to keep his demeanor matter of fact, he raised a brow. “This seems a bit sudden.”

She studied her hands on the table. “Not really. Aunt Ellen has asked me a number of times over the years to join her in her fashion design business. I’ve finally decided to accept her offer.”

“I see.” Except he didn’t. Why would she do such a thing? And why now? She’d always said when she returned from her trips that it felt really good to be home again. “Exactly how soon do you plan to make this move?”

“I haven’t set an exact date, but soon. I talked it over with Verity before she and her family headed out on their vacation and I promised her I wouldn’t leave until she returns.” Hazel shrugged. “They’re due back in about three weeks.”

So soon! And if she’d been planning this since before the Coopers left, why was he just now hearing of it? She usually told him everything. “I see,” he said again, not that he did.

Why had her decision unsettled him so much? After all he had no claim on her.  “And you’ve definitely made up your mind?”

She nodded, looking down as she brushed at her skirt. “So you see, I can only help you with Meg for that long.”

This was so much bigger than not helping with Meg. How could she just leave like this? How long had she been contemplating this? Was she so unhappy with her life here, or was there something in New York drawing her there? Could she have met someone on her last trip? Was—

Hazel reached across the table and touched his wrist, bringing his thoughts back to the here and now.

“But for the next three weeks,” she said, “I’ll do whatever I can to help with Meg.”

He forced a smile. It was the second time today she’d touched him that way. He found he liked it.

Perhaps a little too much.

 

A TAILOR-MADE HUSBAND

From Bachelor Sheriff to Family Man 

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil. 

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

 

 

Updated: June 5, 2017 — 12:11 am

My Last Trip to Hearts Crossing Ranch~Tanya Hanson

 

My eight-novella inspirational series is now compiled in one big anthology, at Pelican Book Group, including the never-published finale, Cross Your Heart. Each of the eight Martin siblings of Hearts Crossing Ranch in Mountain Cove Colorado, has a story of heartbreak and triumph, success or lost faith, sickness or health, and finds a western-style happily-ever after. (Even their widowed matriarch Elaine finds love again!)

My May post showed how a real-life wagon train trip inspired the entire series, but it was my husband’s 2008 cancer battle that led me down the inspirational road. (God be praised, he is now cured.)

Below is a nutshell synopsis about each of the stories.

  1. Hearts Crossing Ranch~ Losing her father to a drunk driver has shattered Christy Forrest’s faith and hope. Going solo on the city slicker wagon trip her dad had planned before his death gets her alongside a handsome wagon master. But the last thing she needs is a faith-filled cowboy…

Kenn Martin, himself jaded by a woman’s betrayal, realizes he could heal his heart with the lovely landscape architect—if Christy gives them the chance.

  1. Redeeming Daisy~ The ranch’s large-animal vet Pike Martin should steer clear from bad-girl Daisy Densmore, the woman who broke his brother Kenn’s heart, but something about her wounded soul can’t be ignored.

Broken and humiliated by bad decisions, Daisy has no choice but to fall back to Mountain Cove…and literally into Pike’s arms when he saves her from herself.

  1. Sanctuary~ Cancer survivor and ranch foreman Hooper Martin doesn’t dare fall in love again. The single dad has been through loss and a horrific physical struggle. But meeting Mallie Cameron at Kenn and Christy’s wedding lets him know love can bloom again

But Mallie is battling an incurable brain tumor and won’t get involved…

(My husband battled the same horrific cancer as Hooper’s, and Mallie is based on my daughter’s beloved sorority sister who left us in 2012 and tore out my heart. Even when you know it’s going to happen, nothing prepares you for when it does.)

  1. Right to Bragg~ Nanny and paralegal Tiffany Vickers has been disowned by her own family, and the guilt wants to drown her. Coming to work for attorney Rachel Martin is starting to give her a sense of family again.

Accountant and cowboy Bragg Martin, himself bearing guilt for faking tests during his star-athlete turn, knows in his heart that he and Tiffany could be a perfect couple in spite of everything. And then Daisy’s ex-husband puts the move on…

It’s Christmas, though, the time of hope and love.

  1. Soul Food~ Kelley Martin has no qualms about being a vegetarian in cattle country, but her failed restaurant brings her back home. She realizes the value of roots and family. Chuck cook on a Hearts Crossing wagon train gets her up close with geneticist Jason Easterday, a self-acclaimed vagabond. How can she get him to stick around?
  1. Angel Child~ Graphic artist and cowboy Scott Martin holds himself back from falling for his high school art teacher. Of course they’re adults now and it’s perfectly acceptable. But Mary Grace holds herself back. Not many men, not even a committed Christian like Scott, will accept her severely disabled little son…
  1. Seeing Daylight~ When her Army husband returns safely from his long deployment in the Middle East, attorney Rachel Martin knows they’ll make it. Until he dies in a foolish mishap. Meeting Brayton Metcalf doesn’t make life any better. He keeps secrets, too, and bears the burden of causing his wife’s death.
  1. The Finale, not available as a singleton: Cross Your Heart~ The youngest Martin, Chelsea has grown up, but nobody takes her seriously despite her college degree and travels abroad. Will her older siblings always consider her a baby? Or will they accept her commitment as an environmental scientist? Saving a wounded horse to prove her maturity is a start. Until she runs into her college love. Once a spoiled surfer with tons of money, Dutton Morse’s new heritage threatens to derail their reunion from the start: he’s an oil man…

I enjoyed writing my “ride” through the trails of Hearts Crossing Ranch and hope you do, too.

Updated: May 31, 2017 — 2:20 pm

A Match Made in Texas: Book Giveaway

“Are you’re askin’ if your virtue is safe with me?”
She blushed, but refused to back down. The man didn’t mince words and neither would she. “Well, is it?”
“Safe as you want it to be,” he said finally.
                                –From Margaret’s new book, A Match Made in Texas
My new book will be released June 6th and I wanted to share a little bit about it.  This is Amanda Lockwood’s story.  If you read Left at the Altar, you might remember that she is the sister who was always in trouble.  Well, she’s in really big trouble this time around. 

The book opens with Amanda stuck in the middle of nowhere after been thrown off a stagecoach for criticizing the driver.  This is where Rick Rennick finds hers and he offers to give her a ride.   After assurances that her virtue is safe with him, she accepts.  Here’s what happens next:

No sooner had she seated herself upon the wooden bench than Mr. Rennick took off hell-bent for leather. Glued to the back of the seat, she cried out. “Oh, dear. Oh, my. Ohhh!”

What had looked like a perfectly calm and passive black horse had suddenly turned into a demon. With pounding hooves and flowing mane, the steed flew over potholes and dirt mounds, giving no heed to the cargo behind. The wagon rolled and pitched like a ship in stormy seas. Dust whirled in the air and rocks hit the bottom and sides.

Holding on to her hat with one hand and the seat with the other, Amanda watched in wide-eye horror as the scenery flew by in a blur.

The wagon sailed over a hill as if it was airborne and she held on for dear life. The wheels hit the ground, jolting her hard and rattling her teeth. The hope chest bounced up and down like dice in a gambler’s hand. Her breath whooshed out and it was all she could do to find her voice.

“Mr. R-Rennick!” she stammered, grabbing hold of his arm. She had to shout to be heard.

“What?” he yelled back.

“Y-you sh-should—” She stared straight ahead, her horrified eyes searching for a soft place to land should the need arise. “S-slow down and enjoy the s-scenery.”

Her hat had tilted sideways and he swiped the peacock feather away from his face. “Been my experience that sand and sagebrush look a whole lot better when travelin’ fast,” he shouted in his strong baritone voice.

He made a good point, but at the moment she was more concerned with life and limb.

He urged his horse to go faster before adding, “It’s also been my experience that travelin’ fast is the best way to outrun bandits.”

“W-what do you mean? B-bandits?” It was then that she heard gunfire.

She swung around in her seat and her jaw dropped. Three masked horsemen were giving chase and closing in fast.

Have you ever been stranded? 

Leave a comment and you could win a copy of

Left at the Altar.  (Giveaway guidelines apply)

A Romance Writers of America  RITA finalist

There’s a new sheriff in town, and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: May 25, 2017 — 7:07 am

What is it about Mail-Order Bride Stories?

My new book, which comes out tomorrow, is about a fictional, newly established town in 1870’s Kansas. The men create a Betterment Committee, banding together to entice women from the east to come there as mail-order brides.

Mail-order brides have been around for ages, although the actual term “mail-order bride” was not in use much until after 1908. It didn’t appear in a major newspaper until 1929 when it was a headline in the New York Times.  That first major occurrence detailed the murder of Carroll Rablen by his mail-order bride, Eva, through the use of poison.

The first incidence of enticing women from afar for men in North America was in 1620 with the arrival of the Jamestown Brides. The Virginia Company was made up of men, many who planned to make their fortune in America and return to England. The founders knew that wives and families would make the men establish roots here in the colonies. The ratio there was ten women to every nine men, whereas in the Jamestown Colony the ratio was six men to every one woman.

westward expansion

Ninety middle-class spinsters (single women 30 years of age and older,) came across the Atlantic on a ship hired by the Virginia Company. They were promised a husband and given clothing and sheets as a further means of enticement to make the journey. Most of these women were from the middle class in search of a better life, and indeed they were able to share property with their husband and held a higher status here as the “founding mothers of America” than they had in England.

As men moved west and established towns, they advertised for women to come to help “grow” the towns and settle them. The Civil War played havoc on the notion that every girl would grow up to eventually marry when it wiped out so many men of marriageable age on both sides of the conflict. In the south, the dearth of men was even higher. That is when matrimonial agencies suddenly sprang up and posted advertisements in every major eastern newspaper.

Were these all honest, forthright ads? Of course not.

mail-order brides

One incidence I came across in my research fascinated me. Eleanor Barry was an orphan who became a schoolteacher. After answering an advertisement in the San Francisco Magazine, she started corresponding with a Louis Dreibelbis who professed to be a miner in another part of California. After several months of letters back and forth, she agreed to marry him and departed on a train to meet him.

As she neared her destination, four men boarded the train to blow up the strongbox that was filled with gold bullion and money. Eleanor asked that they spare her luggage telling them she was soon to be married. The leader acquiesced, blowing up everyone else’s but hers. It was only after she had reached her destination and married, that she realized the man who had spared her trousseau was the same man to whom she had just said her vows—evidenced by a familiar scar on his face.

In romance novels, there is a huge readership for these types of stories. I think this is due to the Cinderella story-line and the happily-ever-after. The first mail-order bride story that I ever read (and where I first heard the term) was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. It was 1986 Newberry Medal winner and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the 1986 Golden Kite Award. I still remember lines from the book!

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Why do you think this type of story is so appealing?
Have you read any mail-order bride stories that you enjoyed and would recommend?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove
(Print or ebook for the continental U.S.A. Ebook for outside the U.S.A.)

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Research Nugget: St. Elmo’s Fire

Some authors hate research and find it tedious, but I love it. I’m always surprised by something I find and it’s a little gift to me when I run across tidbits that deepen my story. They don’t have to be earth-shattering either. Small details can add another layer of realism.

In THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY it was St. Elmo’s Fire. I’d heard about it for a long time but never knew exactly what it was. This is a weather phenomenon that occurs during thunderstorms. It’s a plasma discharge similar to lightning and forms a blue or purple glow that attaches and hangs onto the tip of sharp objects. Even blades of grass have been known to attract this strange glow. Often, but not always, a hissing sound can be heard.

The occurrence was recorded as far back as the 14th century when an eerie glow formed on the tall masts of ships. It’s the patron saint of sailors and to see the phenomenon is viewed as a good omen.

Cattleman Charles Goodnight wrote about the experience during one of his cattle drives and how the glow formed on the tips of the long horns and jumped from animal to animal. It never hurt the cows one bit.

The Heart of a Texas Cowboy that came out on May 2nd takes place during a cattle drive up the Great Western Trail. Houston Legend is trying to save the Lone Star Ranch by selling off two thousand of his herd. But first he has to get them to Dodge City. The woman he marries in order to give her child a name, Lara Boone, volunteers to come along as cook. Two days out, he sees riders trailing them. He doesn’t know what they want but he’s determined to protect his wife and child, his drovers, and his herd. It soon turns into an all-out fight with love blossoming along the way in this marriage of convenience story.

One night, during a huge thunderstorm, Houston sees St. Elmo’s Fire jumping from tip to tip of the cows’ long horns. He doesn’t know exactly what to call it and is amazed that it doesn’t affect the animals.

Here’s a short excerpt of that scene:

Lightning flashed around Houston as he moved amongst the herd around midnight. An eerie glow danced along the six to nine foot horns of the frightened animals leaping from one to another. It was strange how it never hurt the cows. Or didn’t seem to anyway.

In the midst of the summer rain, he scanned the herd, looking for signs of a possible stampede. So far, they were just restless. The biggest threat for a stampede was at the beginning of trail drive. After a few weeks, the jumpy cattle settled into the routine and became acclimated to the noises. Thank goodness for that or this storm would send them into a panic.

His thoughts tried to return to Lara and he kept reeling them back in. Lives depended on him focusing on this right now. Everything else would have to wait. He rode around the fringes speaking soothing words, keeping the animals in a tight bunch.

Harmonica music drifted in the air as Joe rode alongside him. The song, Beautiful Dreamer, had a calming effect on the herd. One by one they laid down, lulled by the music. Houston breathed a sigh of relief that the danger had passed. He watched the steady drip of water off his hat brim onto his oilskin slicker, wishing he was in a Dodge hotel. After a hot bath with his lady, Lara would curl up next to him with nothing between them but skin.

With what had happened tonight, he had high hopes that they would in the near future. He still felt her hand brushing his chest and sneaking up under his jacket. She seemed to like touching him and he certainly didn’t mind a bit. Whatever she fancied to do was fine with him.

But teach her how to love?

Not a chance. What did he know? He was raised with little softness. Stoker was a hard man and he’d instilled that sharp-edged toughness into his sons that had squeezed out affection and sentiment. Still, he’d try. He wanted more than anything for Lara to know a true husband’s love.

* * *

The book released on May 2. This is #2 Men of Legend series and will be followed by #3 (To Marry a Texas Outlaw) in November this year.

Come along and take this journey with me. Meet the Legend family—the tough father and his three sons—and help them tame the West.

As far as I know I’ve never seen St. Elmo’s Fire but maybe you have. If not, tell me about the scariest thunderstorm you’ve ever witnessed. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies (print or ebook) of this.

Railway Post Offices and a Giveaway

Hi,  Winnie Griggs here. I was doing some research the other day on how long it would take a letter to reach Texas from the east coast. As usual, I stumbled on an interesting little tidbit of history that I wasn’t looking for that took me down a fun little rabbit trail.

Did you know that from 1862 until 1977 there existed Railway Post Offices (RPOs).  These were not just rail cars that carried the mail, but were actual rolling post offices.  Between stops, the mailbags, which had heretofore sat untouched during travel, sometimes for days at a time, were now opened and the contents sorted and processed as the train sped toward its destination.

Originally, the railroad cars that housed these rolling post offices, were converted baggage cars that were furnished with wooden furniture.  Soon, however, a Railway Mail Service employee named Charles Harrison designed a set of fixtures that were a vast improvement over those. It consisted of cast-iron hinged pieces that could be folded and unfolded as needed and set in a number of different configurations to hold racks, mail pouches and a sorting table based on needs for specific routes and volumes of mail. These fixtures could also be completely folded away to leave a wide open space, thus converting it to a general baggage car if needed.

Letters that were cancelled aboard one of these RPOs received a postmark that indicated the route’s endpoints, the train number and the designation R.P.O.  A railway mail route could range in length anywhere from a few miles to over 1,100 miles.

Railway mail clerks had to undergo strict training.  Each clerk was expected to know the post offices and rail junctions, as well as local delivery details for the larger cities served along their route.  They had to undergo periodic testing to keep them sharp.  This testing included gauging speed and accuracy in sorting mail on a moving train, and a score above 96% was expected.

At the height of their use, Railway Post Offices were installed on over 9,000 train routes covering more than 200,000 miles.  Some dedicated mail trains were known to carry over 300 tons of mail daily.

The railway post office network began to decline at the end of WWII.  The last railway post office traveled between New York and Washington D.C. and was discontinued on June 30, 1977.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of post office and railroad history. And speaking of mail, do you have any mail-related stories to share – letters from exotic locations, favorite postcards, a pen pal story?  Please do share.

And because I’m so very excited about my upcoming June release, A Tailor-Made Husband, I’m going to give away one of my advance copies to one of the commentators on today’s post.

A TAILOR-MADE HUSBAND

From Bachelor Sheriff to Family Man 

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil.

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

 

Updated: May 8, 2017 — 12:46 pm
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