Category: Personal Glimpses

Jeannie Watt New Release and Give Away!

I am so pleased to announce the release of the first book of my Sweet Home, Montana series, A Ranch Between Them.

This is the story of Katie Callahan and Brady O’Neil. Brady and Katie’s brother were best friends in high school and Katie had a mad crush on Brady. Brady’s home life wasn’t the best and he didn’t feel like he was worthy of Katie, so he kept his distance. Time passed, as it does, and they went their separate ways–Katie to a corporate career in the city, and Brady to the rodeo circuit.

When the story opens, Brady’s suffered a career-ending injury and and has signed on to manage the Callahan Ranch while he heals, unaware that Katie, tired of city life, is coming home to stay. (I just love doing things like this to my characters.)

This scene is from the first chapter of the book, after Katie has rescued Brady from an ATV accident–something he would have been able to do himself had he not been inured. 

After parking the truck next to the main house, Katie half expected Brady to bolt—or to come as close to bolting as he could with his injuries, both old and new—but instead he turned toward her and regarded her for a long moment from under the brim of his ball cap, giving her a moment to study him back.

He’d been good-looking in high school, but now he bordered on spectacular with his dark hair and green eyes. The planes of his face had become more pronounced with age, as had the laugh lines around his eyes. She doubted that Brady had laughed a lot lately, but the lines made her realize how much time had passed since they’d seen one another. They’d both aged, changed. They weren’t the people they’d once been.

“I’m hurting, Katie.”

The candid admission startled her. Brady O’Neil admitting weakness. Brady, who’d refused to go to the clinic. Brady, who’d never let on that his parents were not the loving parents they appeared to be. Nick had clued her in on that small fact.

“Hurting inside or out?” She half expected him to pull into himself after she asked the question, refuse to answer or deflect the question. He didn’t.

“Out.” His jaw shifted sideways, and he sucked in a breath before saying, “Both. Which is why I need my space. Maybe, before I go, I can explain everything. But for now…” He made a frustrated gesture. “Like I said, I need my space.”

“Do you think I’m going to try to mother you, or smother you or something to that effect? Because that isn’t the case. I’m here to sort my life out, too.”

There was color in his cheeks. This wasn’t easy for him, but now that he knew she was going to be sharing his domain, he was establishing boundaries. Like she would encroach where she wasn’t wanted. Although perhaps he had cause to think that. She hadn’t exactly taken the hint when he’d tried to shut her out when they were teens.

“What makes you think I’m going to insinuate myself into your life?” she added.

“You’re a helper, Katie, and I don’t want help. I want to find out what I’m capable of alone.”

“Well, we now know your capabilities in the wrecked four-wheeler department.” Katie instantly held up her hand. “Low blow. Sorry. But what makes you think I’m going to pay any attention to you at all?”

“Katie,” he said softly, “you rescue things. Puppies, kittens, leppie calves.”

Okay. So, she’d rescued a few orphan calves. Some abandoned puppies. A few kittens. Big deal. She propped a hand on her hip. “And that’s your big fear? That I’m going to try to rescue you?” She lifted her eyebrows in a speaking expression. “Like I did today?”

Brady didn’t bite.

Katie let out a frustrated huff of breath. “Fine. We’ll make a no-rescue pact. I won’t rescue you, again, and you won’t rescue me.” She lifted her chin. “Not that I would need rescued.”

He cocked an eyebrow and the color rose in her cheeks as she got his point. “I can now change a tire by myself, and if I get stranded after midnight, I have a cell phone.” And a lot more street smarts than she’d had back in the day.

“How about instead of a pact, you treat me like Ed Cordell? An employee of the ranch.”

Ed, the former ranch manager, had kept to himself, did his job and did it well. He’d been all business, and Katie had never been able to warm up to the man. But he’d kept the ranch running smoothly, she’d give him that.

“If you’re asking me to treat you like Ed, you’re serious about this leave-you-alone thing.”

“It’s not personal, Katie,” he repeated. “It’s what I need right now.”

Katie lifted her chin. “If you need to be left alone, I’ll respect your wishes. Believe it or not, I no longer need to tag along where I’m not wanted. I’ve changed over the past decade.”

“I noticed.”

She frowned at the unexpected remark, but before she could come up with a comeback or a question, Brady held out a hand. Katie stared at it for a second, feeling as if she was teetering on the brink of something dangerous, which was crazy because how dangerous could it be shaking hands with a guy who didn’t want her—or anyone for that matter—around? She resolutely put her hand in his, her nerves jumping as his warm, work-roughened palm made contact with hers and his fingers closed.

“Deal?”

Katie nodded briskly before pulling her fingers free. “Deal.” She felt as if she’d just gotten a slow-motion electrical shock. That was the only way she could describe the tingle that gripped her body when they made contact, ultimately making her stomach tumble.

The vestiges of a crush from the distant past. That was all it was.

She reached for her door handle, her heart beating harder than before, and still feeling the warmth of his fingers on hers. She pushed her hands into her back pockets and met Brady’s gaze. “This is where we go our separate ways, living our parallel lives on the Callahan Ranch?”

He gave his head a slow shake, those mossy green eyes full of an emotion she couldn’t quite read as he said, “I doubt we’ll be able to do that, but when we do meet—”

“You’re Ed to me.”

THE GIVE AWAY!  If you’d like to win a copy of A Ranch Between Them, all you have to do is to tell me in the comments if you had a mad crush in high school.  🙂 

The winner will be announced on Thursday afternoon, so stay tuned!

Me and Mr. Potato Head

Welcome to our special Spuds and Spurs week! Spuds, you say? Yes, indeed. Potatoes were a staple on the westward trails. They were nutritious and stored well, so pioneers depended on them, and as such they should be celebrated. They are also one of my favorite foods.

I’m from Idaho originally and the license plate of my first car proudly read “Famous Potatoes”. As a teen that was a mortifying thing to have on one’s car. I survived, but I thought it was kind of embarrassing to be from a potato state when other kids got to be from states famous for wild horses or aliens. When I traveled out of state and let it be known that I was from Idaho, people invariably said, “Potatoes, right?”

Right–except that I never ate an Idaho potato until I moved to Colorado in 1982, where there were special bins marked “Idaho Potatoes”. At the time they didn’t sell Idaho spuds in the northern part of Idaho–they sold potatoes from Washington, Oregon, California and North Dakota. I love all potatoes, so I didn’t care.

And now to Mr. Potato Head…

Shortly after I married, my husband and I moved to northern Nevada, where we lived near the largest spud farm in the nation. (Yes, Nevada, not Idaho.)  I took a job teaching junior high school, and since I’m a big fan of whimsy, I used my kids’ Mr. Potato Heads  as room decorations. The students, would  ask why I had so many Mr. Potato Heads, and I would explain that I was from Idaho and Mr. Potato Head was my favorite animal.

That stopped them in their tracks. “But…he’s a potato, not an animal.”

“Does he have legs and eyes and a nose and a mouth?”

“Well…yes.”

“Then he’s my favorite animal.”

Soon the kids were bringing me their old Potato Heads, and I started getting new ones as gifts. One student negotiated a trade–he’d give me his prince and princess Potato Heads in exchange for my Darth Tater. I liked the kid, so I agreed. I kind of miss Darth, though.

The original Mr. Potato Head was invented in 1949 and made with actual potatoes. The Mr. Potato Head kit supplied the face and body components, which were on nails, and the child had to come up with his own potato to put them on. Toys were slightly more deadly back then. You don’t find points sharp enough to skewer a potato on kids’s toys nowadays.  The plastic potato body was included in the kit in 1964 and in 1975, the spud body became much larger.

Some fun Mr. Potato Head facts–he received four votes to be mayor of Boise, Idaho in 1985. He was the official Spokes Spud for the Great American Smoke Out in 197 and surrendered his pipe. He was the first toy ever advertised on television in 1952.

Mr, Potato Head has  starred in films, been featured in McDonald Happy Meals, floated high as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and even dresses up as a cowboy. In fact…Cowboy Mr. Potato Head will be one of the prizes given away in our special event. So exciting!

And Now…The Spurs and Spuds Contest

Here’s how the contest works–it’s simple, but a little different from our past contests. Every day two blog commentors will be chosen as semi-finalists. On Sunday, September 29, two winners will be chosen from the semi-finalists. The grand prizes are a great big Lays Potato Variety Pack, and Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head

To enter to be one of my semi-finalists, please tell me if you had a Mr. Potato Head. If you are lucky enough to be randomly chosen as my semi-finalists, you will also receive an autographed copy of my soon-to-be-released book, A Ranch Between Them.

To recap:

  1. Two semi-finalists chosen each day.
  2. Two grand prize winners chosen from all semi-finalists and announced on Sunday.
  3. To enter my contest, tell me if you had a Mr. Potato Head.
  4. My semi-finalists will receive autographed copies of my latest book.

Good luck!

Jeannie

 

 

 

 

Old-Time Surgeons & Modern-Day Robots ~ Pam Crooks

As I write this, I’m recuperating from hernia surgery.  I’ve always been blessed with excellent health, and this was my first surgery ever.  Needless to say, I didn’t know what to expect after they wheeled me out of the operating room. 

But I admit to an undying gratitude for modern-day medicine.  In my case, the surgeon was very skilled, he commonly does hernia surgery, and recovery is faster than it’s ever been. In fact, my paperwork listed the procedure as “Robotic assisted laparoscopic bilateral inguinal hernia repair.”

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?  But one word should jump out at you.

Robotic.

That’s right.  My surgeon used a robot to help him fix my hernias.

Oh, my, my, my.  What a far cry from surgeries in the 19th century.  While researching with the assistance of Doctor Google (hey, who doesn’t run to Google when they need a little self-diagnosing?) I came across an interesting story that I’d love to share with you.

Dr. Ephraim McDowell was a respected frontier surgeon in Kentucky in the early 1800’s when he traveled to a primitive cabin to examine 45-year-old Mrs. Jane Crawford, who, due to her protruding stomach, believed she was pregnant with twins.  However, after examination, Dr. McDowell determined Jane wasn’t pregnant at all, but instead carried a massive tumor in her abdomen.  He advised her he would attempt to remove the tumor, but she had to ride to his home in Danville where he had surgical tools and medical staff to help.

Mother of four children, Jane was forced to make the decision whether to have the surgery and risk death–or keep the tumor . . . and risk death.  After what must’ve been great angst, she left her children with her husband and traveled alone by horseback SIXTY miles through treacherous Kentucky wilderness to the surgeon’s home.

Yikes. 

Once she arrived, he bade her rest several days for stamina to endure the ordeal, er, operation. He often performed his surgeries on Sundays so that the prayers offered at his church would be with him. Indeed, he carried a special prayer in his pocket for divine intervention as he performed the surgery.

Now, mind you, they did not have anesthetic in those days. While poor Jane relied on uttering her psalms for strength, Dr. McDowell relied on two medical assistants and a nurse to hold her down while he made a twelve-inch incision in her belly.  Immediately, her intestines spilled forth, forcing him to turn her over onto her side to get them out of the way so he could delve deeper–and see what he was doing!–to remove the tumor.

Well, after twenty-five agonizing, perspiring but steady-handed minutes, he succeeded. The tumor was out and weighed TWENTY-TWO POUNDS.  

Five days later, she was strong enough to make her bed.  By the end of three weeks, she climbed back onto that horse and made the arduous sixty-mile journey through that Kentucky wilderness to return to her family.

What a joyous reunion that must’ve been, eh?  She went on to live another 32 years.

Later, Dr. McDowell was named the “Father of Abdominal Surgery” and was known for cleanliness while he worked, a factor that no doubt helped many of his patients to live.

For me, it was just my husband and a nurse in the recovery room after the 90-minute procedure.  Afterward, he made a five-minute drive in an air-conditioned car to take me home. 

What a difference a couple of centuries makes, eh?

Needless to say, I’m happy to live in this day and age with its medical marvels.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Jane Crawford.  I’m pretty sure I’d be a sniveling wimp if I’d had to go through what she did!

How about you?  Have you had a surgery before?  Two or three?  Are you a wimp when it comes to pain?  

 

Updated: September 2, 2019 — 8:19 pm

Color on the New York Farm for This Western Author!

All y’all know that I live in Western New York, right? And I figure that the title “Western” is all I need to write wonderful award-winning westerns… and a whole lotta other stuff, too, because I am so blessed to be doing exactly what I always hoped, dreamed of and wanted to do. Write the kind of stories I love to read…

But we talked about the other side of being me, and that’s the farm side which from May to October is REALLY INTENSIVE and mostly fun, we will not talk about GFS.

“Grumpy Farmer Syndrome”

We’ll keep that under wraps, okay? 🙂

I had two books release in June and July… The final mystery of “Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard” “Just Over the Horizon” and I loved being part of that New England series! So fun! And I worked with a great team of authors and editors to put it all together. SWEET! 

AVAILABLE HERE!

Beautiful ending to a wonderful series!

And then there was the third Fitzgerald Sister story “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart”, the beautiful finale to the Shepherd’s Crossing series set in ranching country of Western Idaho,

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON….

 

How fun to be able to do two things I love. Write books, and help run a pumpkin farm that’s about to explode with pumpkins, corn stalks, hay, straw, ornamental corn, baked goods, stacking tables (for stacking pumpkins) mini-donkeys (Alexis and Tanya) wood rounds, wood stumps, firewood (all Dave, please…. although I can run power tools, I don’t play with chainsaws!)

And yesterday our pest control service came to annihilate multiple bee hives, including a monster-sized paper wasp nest with a LOT OF INHABITANTS that’s right over our display yard…. sorry, wasps. When you start paying the taxes, you get to stay. 🙂

Here are some shots of the busy-ness that’s been going on the past two weeks, including bringing small people on board. Our maxim is: Start ’em young at Blodgett Family Farm!

 

Decorating the big red wagon is always a fun job! This is where it begins…

 

My sister Ginny and wonderful niece Amanda are here, helping paint things in the garage/artist studio. (It’s really JUST A GARAGE that’s filled with nice people volunteering their time!)

My buddy Lisa is the creative genius behind a whole bunch of new things on the farm, pretty fall decoratives that add color and punch to the displays.

Amanda and Paul are building the backdrop to the photo op… so families can stand in front of it and have their picture taken at no cost…. We’ll finish it up in a day or two, but here’s a shot from last year’s photo op…

Photo op when Cinderella came to visit the farm last October!

Always time for romance!!!!

One of our newest mums, aren’t they gorgeous?

Xavier, creating stacks of pumpkins for the displays… Don’t you love those rich tones?

My friend Lisa designed the new mum signs… and check these colors. Aren’t they wonderful? This Rustic look features classic mum colors and our “Farm Chic” display is more Fixer Upper/Joanna friendly, with subtle tones. So fun to play in this world and make my entire yard a decoration!

Xavier with a couple of his stacks as we fill the wagon!

 

And this is what the wagon looks like right now:

 

So this is how I keep busy over the summer, and after a wondrously busy August, September and October, I am sooooo ready for winter. No kidding, that’s my time of peace and focus on writing, writing, writing….

It puts me in my happy place!

 

 

Jeannie Watt Goes to the Rodeo

One of my favorite rodeos is not a PCRA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) sanctioned rodeo, but rather our local rodeo, where we get riders from southwest Montana.

As we headed out to the rodeo, my husband had reservations… What is that, you ask? The view from inside the truck as we drove to town.

I assured him the skies would clear and sure enough they did, but not before making a nice amount of muck.

The arena hadn’t gotten sloppy, however, so it wasn’t too slick to ride in. This is the mounted drill team my mother coaches. She rode with them for over a decade, then retired from performing at the age of 76 and took over coaching.

What follows are views from behind the chutes where the competitors saddle their broncs. I do love me a yellow slicker, thus the photo of yellow slicker guy.

Each cowboy puts his own gear on the horse he’s going to ride. In general there are fewer bareback bronc riders than saddle bronc riders because it’s so hard on the body. They were vests with special neck rolls to cushion their head as it snaps back. The cowboy in the pink chaps is wearing his vest and you can see the roll on it. By the by, cowboys are not afraid of pink. Something to do with being comfortable in their masculinity, I think.

These are the saddle bronc riders getting ready to go.

The rodeo is a real family affair. If you look closely you’ll see a cowboy holding a baby, another holding his toddler and, of course, a dog. This photo was taken behind the chutes as they were prepping the bulls for the bull riding. The guy in the chaps is a bull riding contestant, who is thankfully wearing a helmet. I’m a proponent of helmets in rodeo events.

It rained during the bull riding and got my boots wet, but they didn’t soak through. I could have sat under the cover of the grandstand, but I like to sit on the open bleachers next to the chutes. You can see why…it’s worth getting wet.

All in all it was a great time at the rodeo!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PETTICOATS AND PISTOLS!

 

WOW! Twelve years! We’re almost a teenager. Exciting! 2007 seems like such a long time ago and yet, for me, it feels like it was only yesterday that I received an email from Pam Crooks one day in June. She asked me to embark on this wonderful journey with her and nine other authors.

My memory is a little fuzzy but if I recall in the email Pam outlined her vision of a website designed solely for western romance – both historical and contemporary—and devoted to promoting and talking about this genre. There were no sites out there like this.

Blogging itself was in the early stages and few were doing it. Hard to believe huh? It seems like the internet has always burst at the seams with these posts yet social media was just taking off.

Pam had to explain what a blog was. I felt like such a dummy! Totally clueless. I had never even seen a blog, even the word was foreign, but I did want to be in on this exciting adventure. We never expected to last long. Not one of us thought we’d be here TWELVE YEARS later.

I always wondered who gave Pam my name because I was an unknown back then. Hmmm.

Pam talks about forming in her own words: Long about May, 2007, Cheryl St.John and I got together over lunch and brainstormed the possibility of launching a site dedicated to western romance. Blogging was relatively new back then, and there wasn’t a site like we envisioned anywhere in the blogging world. We came up with a ton of ideas, more than we could even implement. We brainstormed names to call ourselves, discussed pages on the site, authors who might want to join us, possible guests to invite. Later, after a gazillion emails back and forth with our fellow western romance authors, the idea not only took off, but has proudly endured.

Here are the original group of Fillies:

  • Pam Crooks
  • Karen Kay
  • Charlene Sands
  • Cheryl St. John
  • Elizabeth Lane
  • Stacey Kane
  • Pat Potter
  • Geralyn Dawson
  • Lorraine Heath
  • Linda Broday

We became a family of sorts and a group of Fillies. 

We blogged twice a month back then which was pretty grueling. We were all so busy.

Charlene Sands kicked us off with her blog – Love Westerns? Welcome to the Club! I remember how scared I was. My fingers were shaking so bad that I kept hitting all the wrong keys in my comment and had to keep correcting the typos. I think it took about 45 minutes to type a three or four sentence comment! I kept erasing and starting over because there was that fear of sounding ignorant sitting in the back of my mind. So funny.

I didn’t know what I’d gotten into. It was terrifying. The thought hit me that if I couldn’t write a simple comment how was I going to write a blog post. Oh man!! Lots of sweating in those days. My main goal was not to look totally stupid. If I could manage that, I was happy.

My first post was Love Those Cowboys! It only consisted of two paragraphs. HaHaHa! But, I didn’t look back and eventually got the hang of it and they didn’t kick me out.

Now, here we are still going strong. How long will our run last? You, dear followers, will decide that. As long as you keep coming, we’ll keep writing blogs.

I know what they are now!!!!

What do we have planned next? Who knows. You’ll just have to stay tuned.

Tell me what you enjoy, what keeps you coming back, or tell me when you first learned of blogs and began following some, and I’ll put you in a drawing for one of three $10 Amazon gift cards.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

One of the first things people want to know about a writer, besides where we get our story ideas, is how we got started.

In the summer of 2001, I sat methodically underlining the word “change” with a red Sharpie. I doodled through a list of things I had on my bucket list. You know, the endeavors you want to do before you kick the bucket. I realized if I wanted to achieve my dreams, I had to get off high center. Make a change; something I have difficulty with.

I took inventory: Conquer the guitar, skydiving lessons, rappelling, surfing, and writing a cookbook. I tossed the guitar idea, when I remembered how the thin strings burned my fingertips. I vigorously scratched off the extreme sports…leaving the cookbook as my best option. Now, this seemed a reasonable goal. Isn’t our first learned skill after holding a bottle, writing? All babies begin with food before graduating to crayons on the wall.

Luck beamed down. The catalogue for the local college arrived that very day. Obviously, God had sent a signal. I evaluated the offerings. The first thing I discovered, no “cookbook” writing classes! Hum? I pondered the listing. How about “Creative Writing”, taught by a New York Times best-selling author? Doable and challenging. That’s it…I’ll write the Great American Novel, but where should I begin? Registration! I hurried and completed the paperwork and rushed to get it in the mail.

Three weeks to wait. What now? I’d need supplies, right? With my credit card in tow, I scurried off to Office Depot. Two hours later, I returned with an array of pens and pencils, a newly revised Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus, two spiral notebooks, and two reams of paper. Satisfied with myself, I plopped the bag of goodies on my desk. Maybe I should have purchased more paper, but if I couldn’t get a “four hundred page” novel written using a thousand sheets of paper, I’d better forget about becoming an author. As if they were the Holy Sacraments, I placed the dictionary and thesaurus on my worktable. I sharpened the pencils and took out the notepads—one for my first book and the other for the sequel.

While I waited for the class to begin, I wondered what kind of assignment we would get? No doubt, it would be exciting and exotic. I’d better think of a plot. A couple of dim-witted ideas surfaced. “How about my cousin who married his third wife’s sister by her father?” Too complicated, unless I wanted to write a soap opera.

“The Day” finally arrived. Off I trotted, toting my books and thoughts. What did a writer look like? Being a New York Times best-selling author sounded impressive, so I figured our teacher would be dressed like Barbara Cartland—wearing the Hope Diamond and a hat. Yes, one with purple feather plumes. She’d carry a Louis Vuitton bag full of her books just in case someone wanted her to autograph one. I arrived on campus early, and chose a seat up front, so I could get a good look at a real author—truly a phenomenon.

Entered our teacher, Ms. Jodi! A pert blonde, wearing a chic pantsuit with a bright scarf, floated through the door, bringing with her an unmistakable aura. Surely she was the greatest writer I had seen. But then, she was the only author I’d ever laid eyes on. For the next hour, I perched on the edge of my seat spellbound. I’d been to the Tri-State Fair and the circus, but I had never seen anything like her.

“A book begins with an idea, plus many hours of labor and perspiration,” she said. I knew I could handle the perspiration, but I’d have to think about the hours of labor thing. I remembered labor only too well. It hurt like crazy, I couldn’t sit down for a week, and my husband disgusted me for three months.

Then there was the “every bad character has a good trait—every good guy has flaws” theory. Add “a villain has reasons, and a hero has weaknesses,” and you have my schizoid cousin on one of her off days. “Let your mind wander!” Now, I certainly could do that. An idea is ”what if?” Isn’t that like: Where would my cousin be today, if her mother hadn’t slept with the milkman? The sponge from within absorbed every morsel of knowledge.

“Now, for next week’s assignment,” said Ms. Jodi. My anxiety level kicked into full throttle. She was about to give us the mysterious spine-tingling subject for our first writing assignment. Excitement built. A shoe on the side of the road! What in the hay? That wasn’t exotic or thrilling. It was boring. The only other word I could think of, without the thesaurus, was, well, boring!

Quite intimidated, I walked away from my first class, recapping as I drove home. To become a writer, I had to perspire, let my mind wander, appreciate my schizoid cousin, remember my labor pains, and write a short story about a shoe.

At home, I wrangled with the topic. Dang it, this writing thing might get complicated. To begin with, I had to find something unique about a shoe on the side of the road! How in the world could I tell my wonderful, supportive husband that my first story was about a shoe? When asked, I didn’t exactly lie. I professed it was about a nurse and policeman. They wear shoes, don’t they?

Still dwelling on how I beat the truth around a stump, I crawled in bed. Sleep melded with story ideas and darted around me like a screensaver going awry. Suddenly, my eyes popped open. That’s it! That’s my story. I shot straight up and scurried off to my office. Correction, my little self-proclaimed cubicle in the sunroom. I didn’t know pajamas would become my creative wardrobe. Forget pencils and paper; boot that computer! I flipped on the lamp, hoping not to disturb my husband. Didn’t want him to think I’d become obsessive-compulsive. Later when Ms. Jodi told me, “You need an almost demonic compulsiveness to write,” it all made perfect sense.

By candlelight—it was really a nightlight disguised as a mini table lamp, but candlelight sounds more like what a writer should say—I wrote my first short story…”Footprints on the Heart”. Yep, about a policeman and a nurse, and a shoe found on the side of the road.

Now, nearly two decades later, this lackluster assignment brought me to write six anthologies with my teacher, Fellow Filly, Linda Broday; and the late DeWanna Pace, plus other works including two anthologies and two single title short stories with our own Cheryl Pierson’s house, Prairie Rose Publications, along my Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series based on some of the characters in two of our anthologies. My excitement is just as real today as it was the night I attended my first writing class. No, I haven’t written the cookbook, but it’s still on my bucket list.

And, no doubt by now you recognize my first teacher and mentor as one of our favorite P&P guest bloggers, Jodi Thomas.

So, what’s on your bucket list?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give you an eBook of Out of a Texas Night, my newest Kasota Springs release.

To a second reader, I’ll send you a gift card from Bath and Body Works.

Updated: July 29, 2019 — 3:04 pm

Greetings from the Big Apple

Oh my gosh, I’m in New York City for the annual Romance Writers of America conference. This was my view the morning I took off–that’s my husband waiting for me to actually get into the truck so that he can drive me to the airport. I’m sure the cows behind the truck are waving goodbye.

And this is my view today. It’s just a little different, but I love the energy of the city.

Going to Conference is a big deal for me. I meet with my editors and fellow authors, take classes and get ideas for my next stories. I always come home excited and ready to tackle at least three or four new projects. Reality will eventually settle in and I’ll pare my project list down to one or two, but I always learn something new about my craft and I get to connect with other writers. In fact, Kit Morgan and I met for the first time on an airplane flying to the RWA Conference several years ago. I was writing on my laptop on the plane, and she asked if I was going to RWA. We had a great talk, and now we’re fellow Fillies. (Try saying ‘fellow fillies’ fast three times.The conference starts tomorrow, so today my daughter and I ate pizza and went to Macy’s. They still have wooden escalators between some of the floors. 

It’s also the location of one of my favorite Christmas movies. 

Later in the week we plan to take in a Broadway show and see some museums when we aren’t busy with the business of writing. And the lovely part is that as the conference winds down, I’m usually pleasantly exhausted and ready to go home to my cowboy and the cows and my keyboard. The city is fun, conference is exhilarating, but there really is no place like home.

Wildflowers of Texas!

It’s wildflower season! When most people think about Texas wildflowers they immediately go to our beautiful state flower the Bluebonnet; which I must agree are absolutely one of the most beautiful wildflowers that exist. But they don’t grow wild or even from seed very well in all parts of the state. You’ll find them in early spring in fields and along the roadsides through central and south Texas and are in abundance in the Hill Country around San Antonio. They were named for their color and resemblance of their petals to a woman’s sunbonnet. Of interest, it is against the state law for any state employee or contractor to mow down any wildflower when they are in bloom.

Where I live in the Texas Panhandle which is also referred to as the High Plains because we’re up on “the caprock” you don’t see the Bluebonnet other than in well maintained private gardens. But we have some very beautiful wildflowers that are conducive to our weather and soil.

The beautiful and impressive Indian blanket grows along roadsides and in pastures, covering large areas, sometimes up to forty acres or more, like the Bluebonnet. They are also good garden flowers. Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a band along the outside. The disk, or center, is brownish.

In West Texas they have Gyp Indian Blanket, which although they share a similar name, they are totally different. I get them confused easily. The Gyp Indian Blanket stands very tall at twelve to eighteen inches, has bare flower stems with leaves at the base of the plant. The ray flowers are yellow and deeply cut into three lobes. They have a large brown center that remains once the ray flowers fall off making it very striking in appearance.

The yucca of the agava family, also known as Spanish dagger, flourishes over much of Texas, but is more common in our area. It attains heights of eighteen feet or more. A huge mass of white blossoms appears in spring and sometimes after the fall rains. When I was in grade school, one of my favorite things to do was to draw dried yucca pods in art class. When the blooms fall the heads turn to some of the most beautiful hues of browns, oranges, and sometimes they are tinged with purples and reds.

Several years ago Texas experienced one of the biggest invasions of moths that we’ve had in years. Thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, I can share with you how the yucca was involved with the huge crop of moths; sometimes we call them miller bugs.

Yuccas are a wonderful illustration of how interconnected everything in nature is. Each species of yucca has a specific species of moth that pollinates it. Each depends on the other. The yucca depends on the moth to pollinate it, and the month depends on the yucca to provide food and shelter for its young. Neither would survive without the other.

After being fertilized by the male, a female yucca moth spends her life making sure there will be enough food for her young. When the yucca flowers open in the evening, she gathers pollen and rolls it into a ball. She lays her eggs on the pistil of the flower and rubs the pollen on the stigma. In this way, the yucca flower is pollinated and the moth makes sure that her young will have seeds to feed on when they hatch. After repeating this process several times, the yucca moth dies.

Seeds and moth larvae develop together in the ovary of the yucca flower, with the moth caterpillars eating the seeds. Since there are only two or three yucca moth caterpillars in each ovary and hundreds of seeds, there are enough seeds to feed the caterpillars and produce yucca offspring. When it is ready to form a chrysalis, the yucca caterpillar chews its way through the ovary, crawls through the hole and lowers itself to the ground on a thread it spins itself. Once on the ground, the caterpillar burrows into the soil, completes its metamorphosis, and emerges as an adult moth the following year as the yuccas begin to bloom. And, the cycle begins again. Since we had an invasion of moths last year, this circle of life seems very interesting! Perhaps just signs of God restoring our lands?

The genus name of the yucca moth is Pronuba. According to Roman mythology, Pronuba was the foundress of marriage, and a woman who arranged marriages became known as pronuba. Yuccas were used by Native Americans medicinally. Yucca juice was used as diuretics and laxatives, and mashed and boiled roots were used to treat diabetes. Yucca roots can be used to make a good soap. Yucca is an important fiber plant and it has been used to make rope, sandals, and cloth. In my research for my story in the anthology that’s been out about eight years and still available,  “Give Me a Texas Ranger”, I learned that they used to make bootleg liquor from yucca.

What is your favorite wildflower?

A special thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for their information on the correlation between the yucca and the moth; and to my friend Natalie Bright for sending it to me.

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will send you an eBook of my newest Kasota Springs Romance Out of a Texas Night.

Updated: July 1, 2019 — 4:36 pm

Forty years ago…

Forty-one years ago (how time flies) I was a young geology student. One of the final hurdles before getting a geology degree is Field Camp. This I where you camp for weeks with other geology students and professors and learn to map and apply your knowledge to the real world. It’s fun and challenging and nerve rattling.

Also forty-one years ago, a handsome guy I didn’t know attended field camp. He’d started college late, after being discharged from the military and then working for several years. We were way different people and had essentially no contact during camp, although I was very impressed when he read Robert Service while everyone sat around the campfire, slapping mosquitoes and enjoying the smoke.

Three years after camp, we met again. Just like in a romance, sparks flew and not that long after we were married—a matter of months. And the crazy thing is that we now live very close to the area where we went to field camp and ignored one another. Last week we took a trip to see if we could find some of the places we’d been way back when and I want to share the photos with you.

If you had told people in camp four decades ago that the two of us were soulmates, I think they might have laughed, but you know what? It worked.

Happy Wednesday everyone!