Category: Personal Glimpses

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!

Santa Fe, Where History Collides With the Present!

After writing two books without much of a break, I decided it was time to get away. Actually, a good friend of mine twisted my arm. She kept talking about making adobe bricks in Santa Fe, NM and before I knew it, I told her I’d go along…just to keep her out of trouble. *wink*  But it didn’t take much persuasion. Despite being born in New Mexico and living there the early part of my life, I’d never been to Santa Fe or made real adobe bricks. And I wanted to go. Darn it, I earned the trip! 

So, on a recent Friday morning, we left Raton, NM and started down. These are buffalo we saw just outside of Cimarron.

                      

Then we meandered our way, enjoying the fresh air of the mountains. We met her parents for lunch in Española. I thought that would be a sleepy little town but it was pretty big. Lunch was excellent by the way. From there we wound around through several small communities to Chimaýo where there’s an amazing story. Sometime about 1810, a friar was performing penance when he saw a light bursting from a hill. He went up and found a crucifix. Three times a priest tried to take it to another place but it always disappeared and reappeared in Chimaýo so they built an adobe mission in 1816 and it quickly became known as a curative place. The sick and infirm came by the droves and claimed to be cured. They still do. The crucifix still resides on the chapel altar. The chapel is on the left and a children’s chapel on the right.

                                                 

Here’s camel rock, an usual rock formation outside of Santa Fe that we had to stop and take a picture of. 

We arrived in Santa Fe mid-afternoon and our first stop was the Loretto Chapel and it’s miraculous staircase that was built without nails (only wooden pegs) and has perplexed experts. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom step. It has two 360° turns with no visible sign of support and the rare wood is not native to the American Southwest. Legend has it that a poor peasant appeared with a donkey and he only worked at night. When it was completed, he vanished without being paid.

In the center of Santa Fe is a beautiful park with the Hall of Governors building sitting across the street that was built in 1610 out of adobe. It looks exactly the same as it did when it was first built. Each Saturday, the Native Americans come with their jewelry and a large variety of other things they make by hand, spread a blanket and sell to the tourists. I loved this and bought several items.

The Palace of the Governors as it appears today. It is the oldest, continually occupied public building in the United States. Courtesy of Patricia Drury, Flickr-Commons

Then, we went down the street where they were making adobe bricks using the same method as their forefathers. Adobe is a mixture of clay, water, and straw. They let us try our hand and I found it a lot of fun. It’s a lot like working with dough. I had to pack it down firm into the form, being sure to get it into each corner. After I did that, they lifted the form and there was a brick. They leave it to dry for a week on each side and it takes about 6 weeks to get all the moisture content out of them. But an adobe building can last for hundreds of years. Each brick we made was four inches thick and weighs approx 25 pounds so a wall would be very solid.

                       

Drying Adobe Bricks

And of course, wagons on the Santa Fe Trail passed through here and provided a welcome stop where settlers could replenish their supplies and rest. They truly must’ve enjoyed it.

Art is everywhere in Santa Fe and it’s all beautiful. We ended our trip with a visit to the New Mexico History Museum and found so many interesting things there.

                                                     

Santa Fe was settled in 1609 by the Spanish and is the oldest capital city in the U.S. History is all around you as you walk through the streets. If you’re looking for an usual place to visit, this will be the one to come to.

Have you ever made adobe bricks or visited a place that seems lost in time? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card so leave a comment!

 

 

Jodi Thomas: The Power of Friendship

We’re so excited to have Jodi Thomas back to visit. We’re not sure what book this makes her but it’s over 50. Miss Jodi always has something interesting to talk about and this is no exception. We think you’ll enjoy it–and her giveaway at the end of the post. So make her welcome.

When I began writing THE LITTLE TEA SHOP ON MAIN, two stories came at once.

First, I wanted to write a story about a man who loved three women. One was his best friend, one his neighbor who needed a hero to turn to as they grew up, and the last was the love of his life even if she didn’t always agree with his plan. Readers will love Jack as he slowly figures out that the girls don’t belong to him; he belongs to them.

The second theme I wanted to write about was the power of friendship. My three little princesses grow to be close friends and maintain that friendship all their lives.

 

The number of close friendships between writers is peppered through history. It has been my experience with writers who become my friends that knowing each other makes us both stronger. We learn from one another, push each other and sometimes even compete.

In my first writing class, I heard Dee Pace read and I said I’d love to be able to write that good. When the class was over everyone agreed to keep meeting at the library. The next week, she and I were the only two who showed up. We began helping each other. Learning how to write. Learning the market. Entering contests.

Dee said once that when I won, she felt she’d won too. I realized I felt the same way. She’s now in Heaven, but every now and then I swear I hear her whispering, “Write deeper, Jo.”

There are friends you form a bond with and you remain close to even when there are months or even years you don’t talk. For some of us there is a very rare friend who follows you through all your life. I’ve heard it said that having one such friend for a lifetime is a very rare gift. They’ve known you all your life and still like you anyway.

I’ve been blessed with one–Reta. Our mothers were friends. There was never a time that we didn’t know one another. We went through school together and even were together when we met our future husbands.

As the years passed, we went different ways but were always still close when we saw one another. But, in good times and bad, I’ve always known she was a phone call away. (Below is a picture of the two of us a few years after we graduated.)

In my new book, THE LITTLE TEASHOP ON MAIN I had great fun watching my characters become friends and influence one another’s lives. My main characters were very different, one wild and creative, one grounded and brave, and one shy. When they really needed to talk or celebrate, or even cry, they’d have tea. The ritual became the thread that held them close no matter how far apart they might be in miles.

Let me know how your best friend enriches your life. I will be drawing for one print copy of THE LITTLE TEASHOP ON MAIN.

AMAZON B&N  |  APPLE KOBO 

Rubbing Elbows with the Rich and Not-So-Famous ~ Pam Crooks

 

Through the ages, savvy businessmen have earned their wealth with a vision and brilliance that others had yet to fathom. Some earned their money with ingenuity, some with skill, others with luck for being in the right place at the right time. For the vast majority of us who weren’t blessed with such fortune, it’s hard to imagine having so much money, one can’t even count it all.

Here’s a few of the richest men in history, with their worth adjusted for inflation:

 John D. Rockefeller – $367 billion. Made his fortune in petroleum beginning in the 1860s.

 

Andrew Carnegie – $337 billion – Made his fortune in steel in the mid-1800s

Cornelius Vanderbilt – $202 billion – Made his fortune in the railroads and before that, steamships, also in the mid-1800s.

To their credit, Rockefeller and Carnegie were generous philanthropists who gave away much of their fortune to charitable causes. Vanderbilt, however, kept his fortune until he died and left 95% to a son, William, (one of thirteen children) and William’s four children. Bet there was some squabbling there from the other twelve, don’t you think? Yikes!

There are few men more wealthy today than Warren Buffet. Warren is special because his fortune began right here in my hometown of Omaha. He still lives in the same home he bought in 1958 in a modest, though very nice, neighborhood. Part of his charm is his thriftiness. I remember seeing him in our local grocery store buying a few cases of Coke (his beverage of choice) when it was on sale. Warren is worth $90 billion dollars and is listed by Forbes as the 3rd richest man in America, behind Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

His best pal and right-hand man is Charlie Munger. Together, they have made Berkshire-Hathaway into a world-renowned investment company with eye-popping success. Charlie is worth $2 billion.

I am fortunate to own some BH stock (not the good A stock, mind you, which is worth $315,000 (approximately) a share). Being a stockholder enables us to get into the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, which is also right here in Omaha, always the first weekend in May.

It is an EVENT, let me tell you. Besides commercial planes, private jets from around the world crowd our airport (about 110 private jets over the weekend.) Tens of thousands of people come to Omaha for the weekend to listen to Warren and Charlie give advice and talk about the year’s investments.  Not only are these guys entertaining and witty, they are SMART!!  They can quote percentages, stocks, companies and logic like men a fraction of their ages.  Oh, did I tell you Warren is 89 years old and Charlie is 95 years old?

My husband and I go to the shareholders meeting nearly every year just to breathe in the atmosphere. It’s fun, organized and INCREDIBLE to mingle with stockholders from so many countries.

One of the highlights of the weekend is the shopping. Literally thousands flow into our big convention center to snatch up BH companies’ products at special prices just for shareholders.  Dairy Queen ice cream treats and Coca-Cola are favorites!

Here’s a few fun pictures:

With “Warren” at the Pampered Chef exhibit

A luxury sports boat with leather everywhere

A special price for said luxury boat just for shareholders–$125,611.00.  A bargain!

Warren Clothing

A juggler

Really running joggers at the cool Brooks Brothers exhibit

Press box for multiple media outlets eager to talk with and about Warren and Charlie!

Are you a Berkshire Hathaway stockholder?  Have you ever rubbed elbows with some really RICH people?  Do you like to dabble in money? What would you buy if you were super-rich? 

Super-Hero Charlie and Warren Rubber Duckies

Let’s chat!  I’m giving away some collector rubber duckies dressed as Super-Hero Charlie and Warren. I tell ya, people were buying these like crazy! A fun keepsake for a fun weekend!

Updated: May 8, 2019 — 8:29 am

More Real Life Inspiration

I intended today’s blog to be on The Pack Horse Library program, but that will have to wait for next month. As I sat trying to write that piece, life has intruded changing my focus.

My current fosters Noelle, Dash and Charlotte

For those of you who don’t know, rescuing animals has become a large part of my life since my boys left the nest. I foster dogs with Cody’s Friends Rescue, and I handle administration for a primarily cat rescue, A Voice for All Paws. Being involved with these organizations has brought me both incredible joy and reeling sorrow.

As with many authors, my non-writing loves often find their way into stories. Such is the case with the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy which I recently turned in. A character playing a major role bringing Cheyenne and Cooper together is a rescued German Shepherd. She is based on and named in memory of Dennis Pisarski’s amazing service dog, Penny Lane, both of whom inspired the seed idea that became this book.

Cooper Abbott is contacted by the local shelter to foster Penny. After her owner dies, Penny is dumped in the shelter. One of my favorite scenes in To Tame A Texas Cowboy is when Cooper receives a call from the shelter. For me, this scene speaks volumes about my hero.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When Penny arrived, we had to carry her outside, and then she cowered and whimpered until we took her back in. Now she’s quit eating. You know what that means.”

With her owner, the anchor in her life gone, unless something changed, Penny’s case would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of fear or depression, she’d hide in the back of her kennel. People would walk past her to more outgoing dogs. Those would be the lucky ones brought to meeting rooms to turn on the charm and find forever homes. But not Penny. Being withdrawn, she’d remain in her kennel, sinking further into herself, as her time slipped away or her health declined.

 “I need her out now, and since you’re currently without fosters, I started with you. Plus, you and Rowdy would do wonders for Penny,” Kelli said.

“If I weren’t moving, I’d gladly take her.”

“Moving? Where? When? How did I miss that news?”

After Cooper explained about his opportunity to take over the practice in Wishing, Kelli said, “She won’t make it here.” Kelli paused. “I’m making an exception. Because you’re a vet, we won’t worry about medical needs. Plus, Wishing’s only a couple hours away. You and Rowdy can work your magic on Penny, and when she’s ready for adoption you can bring her back. Or, maybe you’ll find an adopter in Wishing.”

“Then sure, I’ll foster her. I’m at the clinic, but I can be there in a few.”

Fifteen minutes later, Cooper knelt inside the kennel and stared at Penny Lane curled into a tight ball in the far corner. His hands tensed around the leash he held, but other than that he remained still, giving her time to adjust to his presence. Most dogs would be all over him by now. Jumping, barking, begging for attention, but not this girl. She’d already given up.

“Hello, Penny. I hear you’re having a rough time.”

The dog’s eyes opened, but she remained motionless. The trauma and loss she’d endured shone in her wide brown eyes.

He inched closer, watching for signs of aggression, but she’d pulled so far inward, she barely acknowledged him. She just plain didn’t care. He continued working closer. “Don’t give up, sweetheart. I know you’re missing your human, but there’s someone else out there for you. Someone who’ll love you, and wants, maybe needs you, too.”

Penny lifted her head the tiniest bit to stare at him. The look in her warm brown eyes was different than it had been a minute earlier, more haunted now, but with something else.

She thinks you’re a hypocrite. You talk the talk but aren’t big on walking that walk yourself.

Cooper shut out the mocking voice. “I’ve lost someone, too. I know it hurts like hell, but you can’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.”

Olivia’s face flashed in his mind. Oval and delicate, framed with long blond hair and big blue eyes. Giving, and sweet as ripe Texas peaches in July, she’d had so much to offer him and the world.

They’d had their lives planned. After a small intimate wedding and a quick honeymoon, they’d return to College Station. She’d get the SeizureReader into production and run the budding company. Then they’d focus on saving the money for his practice where he could offer rescues and those who couldn’t afford it, reasonably priced vet care. They’d both be doing what they loved. They’d have each other, and eventually a family of their own.

But life hadn’t gone as planned. Two years, and yet at times, it felt as if they’d been together yesterday.

“You’ll get through this, Penny.” Cooper hooked the leash to Penny’s collar, slid his arms under her middle, and scooped her up. “Let’s get go home.”

Now it’s your turn. To be entered in the random drawing to win the picture frame and To Catch A Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about an animal who’s changed your life for the better.

 

Please remember, Adopt! Don’t Shop! For more information on Cody’s Friends Rescue or A Voice for All Paws or to see their adoptable pets, click on the organization name. If you’re not in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can click Petfinder and enter your zip code to find adoptable animals in your area.

 

 

 

 

Updated: April 2, 2019 — 7:24 pm

From Hero to Character

One of the questions, as authors, we get asked a lot is how do we find our characters? Do they come from real people? Are we people watchers? Do we just make them up? Are there research books with characters to help develop yours? Do they come from the headlines?

The answer is simple … all of the above. I use a combination, as most writers do. I probably shouldn’t tell you, but sometimes I’ll use the name for a character of someone I really don’t care about who have similar traits. However, most of the time, it comes from someone I like.

In the first book of the Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series, “The Troubled Texan”, I knew I wanted a strong lawman, with a heroic past. A friend of mine came to mind. In our bowling and coaching days, I knew his mother, father and sister. Although I’d only met him a few times, he was definitely one of those people you’d always want for a friend.

Billy Hobbs was from my hometown and graduated from the same high school as my husband and both of our daughters. He was a two-time All-American linebacker for the Texas A&M Aggies, and an NFL linebacker for six seasons. Cotton Bowl MVP, Panhandle Sports Hall of Famer and National Defense Player of the Year, only begins to name some of his honors. He was selected in the second-round draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to become captain for New England and New Orleans Saints.

After his football career, of 25 years, he surrendered to full-time Christian ministry to preach, work with youth, do mission work in Africa, working with orphans and the many needed fellowships in prisons, even creating a vitamin supplement for the disadvantaged. He started the Mercy Foundation; and, where I knew him best, he ran the Faith City Mission here in Amarillo. His foundation and Faith City Mission are family shelters for those in need of a space to go whether it’s single moms and their children or families who need help getting back on their feet. After many years of doing such wonderful, selfless work, he was killed in a motorcycle-car accident in 2004 at the tender age of 57.

At his funeral one of his closest friends, said Billy applied what he had learned in football to his work in the ministry. “Hobbs took the same competitive spirit to help people.”

What a perfect model for my character, the Sheriff of Kasota Springs and his friend, who is also a deputy sheriff working with the Joint Task Force. They were raised in the same town and went to college together, but in my story it was at the University of Texas, not Texas A&M. Deuce went on to play for the Steelers, while Brody went into law enforcement, later encouraging Deuce to do the same.

Now you can see why I selected Billy, a real person who I admire greatly, as my role model for Deuce Cowan. Although, Deuce had to quit his football career due to an injury and became a defensive line coach, his true love, like Billy’s, was people. To help Deuce, law enforcement became his true love; particularly, since his father was a lawman.

Of interest, I took a headliner news story and used it as the reason Deuce’s love interest in the first book came to Kasota Springs to hide out in a small town; not knowing that her once BFF Deuce Cowan was sheriff.

Names sometimes come easy, other times very hard. For instance, one of my characters in both books came from a family in our anthology “Give Me a Cowboy”. Mesa LeDoux, who like most of my characters are founding family members from our anthologies, is a Johnson, my mother’s family name. Lola Ruth is her BFF. Ruth is my mama’s name and Lola is my mother-in-law. Clara at Pumpkin’s Café is named from my deceased sister, Clara, who was nicknamed Pumpkin. In “Out of a Texas Night”, I even use the first name of one of our P&P faithful readers. Now you’ll have to read the book to see if you can recognize who it is.

So now you have a little insight on how we come about in developing our characters, not just their name but their personalities and traits.

I’m working on the next book in the series, tentatively titled “Deep in a Texan’s Heart” and it’s Sylvie Dewey’s story. You might remember her Aunt from one of our anthologies, so she also comes from one of the founding families; and has a fantastic backstory. In this book, there’s a cooking club made up of retired teachers, and they are real educators I know who taught either my daughters, grandkids or are close friends, so get ready for some great first names only and fantastic holiday recipes in the back of the book. And, a teaser—the story is ripped from the headlines!

Have you ever had a career or hobby that changed you for the better?

To one reader who leaves a comment, I’ll send you an eBook of either “The Troubled Texan” or “Out of a Texas Night” from Amazon.

Updated: April 1, 2019 — 3:15 pm