Category: Personal Glimpses

THE MAKING OF A WESTERN SERIES and a giveaway by Charlene Sands

Most of the romantic series I’ve written are family sagas, with the stories centering around one set of family members or friends and usually, (but not always) the stories are set in the same town, territory, or city.  But the key factor is how to tie in the stories, while still making the plot easy to follow for readers who have not read the other books.  Authors often say the books are part of a series, but they can also be read as a STAND ALONE, meaning they have all the elements in the story to make for a satisfying read even if you haven’t read the other books.   It’s the task and joy for the writer to make sure the story holds up and is a cohesive enough to stand alone.

My series are usually a set of three stories, but sometimes as I’m writing, another character pops up that needs his or her to be told.  So there’s no hard and fast rule about how many books can be in a series.  If an author has a vision for six or ten or fifteen stories and the readers are invested enough and love the stories, the writing, and the setting, more the better.

 

 

What’s Fun About Writing a Series:

The Setting—once the town or ranch or territory is established, readers (and the authors) love to revisit familiar places from the earlier books.  In my Forever Texan series we often see the Bluebonnet Bakery and Wishing Wells and 2 Hope Ranch.

Taming the Texas Cowboy

The Characters—it’s fun to see the characters interact together from one story to another. Brothers, sisters, cousins, moms and dads and best friends all play a role, but the writers strive to make sure the romance between the hero and heroine is the main event in every story. The secondary characters often get their own stories later down the road.

The Theme – Often there’s an underlying theme that connects the stories.  It can something as simple as a holiday, Thanksgiving or Christmas maybe, or a special event such as a rodeo coming to town.  It can also be a wedding or a pregnancy that connects the stories.  The themes know no bounds.  I was once  part of a multi-author series about a Bachelor Auction.  I’ve also written a series centered around a winery called Napa Valley Vows, a series centered around a hotel called Suite Secrets and around a ranching family called The Slades of Sunset Ranch.

The Love–  Not between hero and heroine, because that’s a given,  but for the author.  Once I’ve established my town and the people in it and yes, even the stories I plot and plan out, I sorta fall in love with the whole idea.  These people are my friends, this town is somewhere I’d love to live and it’s the journey and the challenge to make the series click and stick, as I say.   One thing I know for certain, once the love is gone, once the writer tires of the setting or runs out of story, it’s time to move on, to be inspired once again.

I’m really proud of my new Forever Texan story set in Hope Wells, Texas.  The stories center around two cousins and their best friend.  It’s been a labor of love for me, as I started this series long ago and have finally found the right time and place to publish this trio of amazing Texans.   I’ve been lucky enough to have input in the covers, the titles and series name.  It makes this all the more special for me.

You may already know the first book in the series Taming the Texas Cowboy starring Trey and Maddie Walker, but I’m happy to say the second book in the series (Jack and Jillian’s story) is available for pre-order.  And this is the OFFICIAL COVER REVEAL for Loving the Texas Lawman.   I know, it’s a hardship looking at this guy, isn’t it?

 

 

The last thing honorable Sheriff Jack Walker needs is a blast from the past, but that’s exactly what he gets when his high school love, now sexy lingerie designer, Jillian Lane arrives on his doorstep needing his help and protection. 

Jillian is desperate to save her company, Barely There and turning to Jack Walker, the town hero, is her only option. The trouble she left behind in California has followed her home, leaving Jack no choice but to protect her. Unwittingly, Jillian’s put everything Jack has ever wanted in life at risk. 

The years have not made it easier for Jack to say no to his first love, but saying yes may threaten all he holds dear. Jack may have a solution: marriage–the temporary kind. And how can a girl from the wrong side of the tracks refuse a marriage proposal from her one-time love? 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-20&tag=pettpist-20

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1126172852?ean=2940157567781

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/loving-the-texas-lawman/id1224208557?mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/loving-the-texas-lawman

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-21&tag=pettpist-20

 

 

For Fun:  Take a guess at the names of my hero and heroine from FOREVER TEXAN Book 3 titled, Redeeming the Texas Rancher coming this August.  Post either number ONE, TWO OR THREE and be entered into a random drawing to win a backlist book of your choice, either print or digital from my available titles.   Random drawing winner will be posted later tonight.  Be sure to stop by again!

 

  1. Conner and Willow
  2. Tristan and Susanna
  3. Colby and Dakota

 

 

Updated: April 11, 2017 — 12:08 pm

Can You Hear Country in My Voice?

LONG TIME GONE — Book #2 of the Cimarrron Legacy Series, releases in under two weeks1!!

by

Mary Connealy

I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published.

At the end of those ten years, on that fateful day when I earned my first contract, I had twenty finished books on my computer.

TWENTY! FINISHED! BOOKS!

And those books were NOT all romantic comedy with cowboys. Among those twenty books were almost all genres….within of course the genre of romance.

Sweet contemporary romances, police dramas, gothic, mysteries, sci-fi. Yep, I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I was trying seriously to get published all those years, but for good or ill, I wasn’t one of those people who wrote one book then started POLISHING for seven years.

Instead, I’d finish a book, and start another one. That’s not to say I never edited and revised. I did and did and did. I wrote stand alone books. I’d see ways to connect them and rewrite them into series. I’d change dates and names and places to move a book set in 1880 in Montana, so it’d be in 1865 Texas to match up with another books.

I had one three book series I wrote in three lengths. 45,000 words long, 55,000 words long and 90,000 words long, so they were ready to pitch to three different publishers with different word requirements.

I say all this because for some reason…for WHATEVER reason, when one of my books finally hit…it was a historical romance.

And then the publisher said, “So what else have you got like this?”

Eleven published books later, I finally had to start writing new books.

Now why, oh why, did that historical romance sell? A style I call ‘Romantic Comedy with Cowboys’.

I think maybe it’s because I know the lingo. I think I bring some authenticity to the western voice. Being from Nebraska … well, it ain’t Texas but it’s cowboy country, I promise you that.

And my husband is a Nebraska cattleman. We have what they call a cow/calf herd. 120 cows. (this is NOT a big operation by Nebraska standards, but it keeps us busy!)

Every one of those 120 cows has a baby every February and March (a few early ones, a few late) and for the last few years I’ve been chronicle-ing the arrival of those babies on Facebook.

Now, I think baby calves are wonderful. So cute, so lively when they’re so brand new. Angus calves are what we have mostly and they arrive this beautiful, shining black. Watching them stand, learn to nurse, run to their mamas when they get startled by My Cowboy or me driving in on our daily calf check. They’re just adorable.

But what amazes me about my calf pictures on Facebook is the response. I am surprised by how many people find what is every day to us, unusual, fascinating, even miraculous.

A baby calf being born.

So posting these pictures has helped me realize just how special our lives are, what a precious opportunity I’ve been given to be a Nebraska cattleman’s wife.

And I think now, maybe the reason my books finally sold, after all those years and all that work, is that I found my voice. I found a subject, westerns, cowboys, cattle, rural life, that I could portray with authenticity.

One of the bits of writing wisdom we hear of all the time is ‘Write what you know.’

Long Time Gone (Book #2 Cimarron Legacy Series)

Well, I suppose that’s what I’ve done. I’ve found a twist on my life, added considerably more gunfire, of course! (thank heavens) and made a career out of it.

I invite you all to join me on my Spring Parade of Calves (which is usually getting over by the time it’s spring) on Facebook.

And check out my new book, Long Time Gone. A book genre, romantic comedy with cowboys, I finally had to knowledge to write.

 

Tell me a story about an animal you’ve known. Or about what you know. If you were going to ‘write what you know’ what would that be? Commenters will get their name in the drawing for a copy of Long Time Gone.

Updated: March 15, 2017 — 7:07 pm

Give Me a Cowboy and the Rodeo

For Christmas my wonderful son-in-law bought tickets to the PBR in Wichita, Kansas, which will take place in a couple of months.  This isn’t the first bull riding event he’s taken me. They are all a treat and brought to mind the backstory to my $.99 eBook release of the first book in the Kasota Spring Romance series The Troubled Texan. Since this contemporary series takes place several generations later than one of the six Texas anthologies I was fortune enough to be included in with Fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, Give Me a Cowboy, about a Texas Panhandle rodeo in the late 1800’s, I decided it might be fun to give you all a glimpse into how we developed this book. Without it, there would be no Troubled Texan.

Typically, the publisher matches up authors in a short story collection or an anthology and each author writes their own story based on the house’s criteria. In our case, our editor matched the four of us up and all but this one book had a theme and each of us wrote an individual story.

For our second book, we tried something different. We decided we’d all intertwine our stories around one rodeo.  This was really gonna be fun and challenging, so we got together and went through all of the historical facts. The first date chosen had to go because there was no rodeos in the Texas Panhandle until the summer of 1888. Our story changed dates to the 4th of July 1890. The Pecos, Texas, competition occurred on July 4, 1883. One thing about historical writers, particularly writing about your home town, you must stay as authentic as possible.  So we needed the name of a fictional town.  I was coming back from Dallas, and looked over and low and behold there was a railroad crossing a few miles from Amarillo … West Kasota.  In the 1800’s seemingly everything had a Springs attached, thus Kasota Spring, Texas, came to fruition.

Now for the next problem, since there were only four official events in the rodeo at that time, we all had to select one for our story.  We were sitting around the work table.  Jodi and Linda selected their events, so that left DeWanna and me.  I’ve always loved bull riding. Although it was an unofficial event, taking place somewhere far away from the rodeo grounds, we decided to include it.  I’d really been watching and studying up on bull riding because I had a fantastic story in mind or at least that was how I saw it.  Well, guess what?  DeWanna was the next in line to select; and, of course, what did she choose but bull riding and the reason, her brother was a bullrider!

I tried not to act disappointed when the only choice left was wild-cow milking!  Yes, just like today in our rodeos. The reason was simple, the ranches had to bring in the mama cow to take care of her youngster who was participating in calf roping.  Eventually, someone came up with the idea that if they hauled both mama and calf in why not make an event out of it … so I got wild cow milking.

To tell you the truth, I think my scene in the rodeo was so much fun to write.  It rains, so my hero and heroine who were undesirably teamed up, really got to know one another by the end of the scene!

In The Troubled Texan I borrowed, with her permission, several of Linda’s character’s families as founders of Kasota Springs.  Two pioneers out of my stories I truly loved were Teg Tegler and Edwinna Dewey (from the Christmas anthology). Here is a picture I took at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, a few years ago. This couple is exactly how I envisioned Teg and Edwinna.  I know it’s okay to use their photo, since I got their permission and they asked me to autograph my stories to them as Teg and Edwinna!

The fictional Teg’s great-grandson works on the Jack’s Bluff ranch in The Troubled Texan and Edwinna’s great-great granddaughter lives in Kasota Springs still and has a book of her own as heroine that’s under contract.  It’s so much fun for me to write about these folks and their dreams.

How about a few fun facts about the rodeos of the 1800’s.

  • Before the 20th century, rodeos were called “Cowboy Competitions.”
  • Bragging rights for an entire year were at stake.
  • Cowboys tuned up their horses, shook the kink out of their ropes and made final decisions on who mugs and who milks.  That was my story. My hero did the mugging and my heroine did the milking in the rain.
  • Today, the cowboy winning events earn huge purses; however, in the original rodeos, they won a small purse and blue ribbons from the trim of a girl’s dress or bonnet.
  • Jail cells were used as boarding house rooms, since even prisoners were let out of the hoosegow for the rodeo.
  • The opening was full of “speechifying”, but the crowd never let it last very long.
  • They had chuck wagon competitions, just like today.  Fares included beef, potatoes, biscuits and bread pudding.
  • There was a lot of music competition.  Singers and pickers: guitars, fiddles, and poetry.
  • The oldest cowboy in the area always had the honor of shooting the pistol to begin competitions.
  • There were no rules that governed the rodeo, like there is today. The grounds were typically near the railroad and/or stock yards, because the main street was needed for parades and competitions.

When the evening was over, usually after a dance, everyone climbed aboard creaking buckboards, dusty buggies, and faithful horses and scattered to resume the tasks of their normal lives and to work on their skills for next year’s competition.

My question to you all, do you like rodeos and what is your favorite event?

 

To five lucky winners who leave comments,

I am giving away copies of the eBook

The Troubled Texas!

 

Updated: February 27, 2017 — 8:03 pm

Cattle Rustling Makes a Comeback ~ by Anne Carrole

In The Rancher’s Heart, the third book in my contemporary Hearts of Wyoming series, the hero and heroine own neighboring ranches, both inherited from feuding fathers. The feud goes back generations and has to do with water from the creek that separates their properties. But they quickly realize that each is the solution to the other’s ranching problems, and soon, love knows no boundaries. But cattle rustling and the fallout from that act will soon test both love and loyalty.

Buy on Amazon

Isn’t this a contemporary western romance, you ask?

While talk of cattle rustling usually conjures up images of the Wild West and memories of 1960s television westerns like Rawhide and Bonanza, the crime of cattle rustling is on the rise in the twenty-first century, driven largely by the rise of beef prices.

A calf can bring upward of $1,000 at market; an uncastrated bull more than $2,500. Calves are particularly susceptible because of the lag time between birth and branding.

One heist in northeast Texas involved 1,121 calves worth over $1.4 million. Four thieves in Waco, Texas, stole 107 calves for a payout of $139,000. But more common, and easier to execute, is theft of a few animals from small ranchers who don’t brand their cattle.

To combat this outbreak of thievery, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has a team of thirty lawmen, described as special rangers, who investigate livestock-related crimes throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Just like their Old West counterparts, these rangers sport six-shooters and cowboy hats but drive pickups instead of ride horses. Rather than relying on tracking skills, these officers use advanced law enforcement tactics, including digital databases that track every head of cattle sold in a state, and they utilize DNA testing to discover the dam and sire in order to ascertain if the cattle have been stolen.

While we no longer hang cattle thieves, stealing even less than ten head of cattle in Texas is considered a third-degree felony and punishable by up to ten years in prison. Texans don’t fool around.

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, Marvin Wills, the special ranger who was in charge of the Waco case, noted “there’s three types of thieves here: there’s family, employees, or someone who knows them.”

You’ll have to read The Rancher’s Heart to find out which of those categories fit the cattle rustlers in the story, but needless to say, suspicion falls on the hero precisely because the Taylors, who own the neighboring ranch, have been feuding with the McKennas for generations, and everyone in town knows the Taylors need the money. The fact Cody Taylor got roped into helping lovely Cat McKenna, who prefers high heels to cowgirl boots, only means he had opportunity. But Cat has fallen for the stubborn rancher, and she will have to decide if she will let either history or circumstantial evidence shake her trust in the man who has captured her heart.

Here’s an excerpt:

Cody placed his shotgun firmly by his side, shaken by the fact he’d pointed it at Cat before he’d realized just who had followed him. Having tied his horse behind the old line shack and camped out on the far side of one of the small hills that mounded the rocky pasture, he had found a spot to watch the herd unobserved. Only to find someone trailing him. With her hair tucked under her hat and her back to him, he hadn’t been able to tell who it was until she’d turned around.

Only then had he realized he could have shot her. He wiped an arm across his brow. Despite the cool air of the higher elevation, he was sweating.

“I’m trying to catch a rustler who I hope isn’t scouting right now, because I’ve certainly blown my cover. I didn’t want to risk you telling someone. I don’t know who the culprit is yet, but I suspect it’s someone who knows Pleasant Valley Ranch pretty damn well. That could mean it is someone working for you.”

Her hands were on her curvy hips, and her chest rose as she took a deep breath. He admired her chest. Perky and perfectly sized.

“That description would include you.”

Cody felt the verbal slap as if his face had met the flat of her hand, sparking anger he struggled to control. A man’s reputation summed up his worth.

And no one had ever trampled on his.

Too furious to speak, he turned on his heel and walked away, toward his gear and the line shack. While the cows lowed in the background, he could feel the steam rising in his blood as his boots crunched along the rocky soil. He didn’t deserve her suspicions. He merited better than this. If she’d been a man calling him out as she had, he’d have decked her.

Despite the loss of money he so desperately needed, better to find out now how little she thought of him than to go on fooling himself that she respected him, maybe even liked him. Enough to find some solace in each other’s arms. What a fool he’d been to even contemplate such an arrangement with a woman who couldn’t hide her disdain for him and the life he valued.

“Cody,” she called from behind him, her voice loud but wavering. He kept walking, taking bigger strides to lengthen the distance between them.

Nope, he’d dodged a bullet.

He heard her boots scuffing along the stony ground at a run as she breathlessly called his name.

He was surprised at how much her lack of faith cut him. Anger was one thing. But her lack of confidence in who he was felt more like betrayal. More like she’d knocked the supports right out from under him, sending him into a free fall of emotion. He’d thought they’d gotten beyond mistrust. Way beyond.

The scuffing noise was getting closer.

He turned. Ready to have it out. She stopped just a few feet away, her breathing ragged.

“I’m sorry. I…” There was desperation in her voice.

“You don’t accuse a man of stealing and then think you can say a few words and all is forgiven. I may not have much in this world. But I do have my reputation. Yet just now you accused me of something no rancher accuses another of unless it’s meant. You either believe in me, or you don’t. There are no shades of gray in this.”

The Rancher’s Heart is the third book in the Hearts of Wyoming series, where love is given a second chance, and is available in either e-book or print on Amazon.

I am guessing we’ve all lost some treasure at one time or another. Could be we valued it for sentimental reasons, for its monetary value, or we just liked it. I’ll gift a Kindle e-book of The Rancher’s Heart to one lucky person who leaves a comment about something they lost or which category they think the cattle rustler in The Rancher’s Heart falls into—family, employee, or acquaintance. And in the comment section, you can also read my note about something I lost and how my hubby became the hero who saved the day.

 

Anne Carrole writes both contemporary and western historical romances. She’s an eastern girl with a western heart who was raised on a farm (yes, they have them in the East) with horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and whatever other animals she could convince her parents to shelter. Besides reading and writing romances, she loves western history, rodeo, football, gardening, and tennis. Married to her own urban cowboy, she’s the mother of a college-age cowgirl. Her latest releases are The Rancher’s Heart and an historical short story about a Harvey girl in the Wild West titled When Love Comes Calling, part of the recently released Journey of the Heart Anthology.  Buy Journey of the Heart on Amazon

Updated: February 21, 2017 — 11:47 am

A New Beginning…

Dear Santa,

Kathryn here…

It is five days since Christmas Day and here in the Midwest the snow is getting a bit dingy. At my house, the small tree looks a little more forlorn for lack of presents at the base. The leftovers have been eaten and the company has departed. The music that hung in the air is silent. A few items remain out of place, but the house is quiet once again. The frenetic energy that bounced off the walls in the days before and surrounding Christmas, is slowly dissipating.

Although I am the first to admit that I enjoy seeing and hearing from people I haven’t visited with in a while, as the big day draws near, I find myself seeking a time-out. It is all a bit too much—the sounds, the colors, the over-the-top cheer, the rich foods, the ridiculous parking at the stores. There are so many expectations, so many things I should be doing. Because of those, the holidays are stressful for me and that is not what they are supposed to be about.

That is why the days from the 26th to the 30th are my favorite. The expectations of what I should do are gone. (Can you tell that I am a bit rebellious when it comes to the “shoulds” in my life? I imagine it puts me on your Naughty List now and then.) But during the days between Christmas and New Years, the time is suspended. Reflection on the year that has gone by and hope for the year to come slowly seep into my senses like a subtle, fragrant scented candle.

 

There is a settling inside me. I am full…

Of a quiet joy…(Matthew 1:23) 

A quiet peace…(Romans 8:35, 37-39)

And there is HOPE.

This time of year reminds me of a blank page…one that is waiting, expectant, for a new story to be written upon it. I even become a bit giddy with the prospect.

Santa…I have a request. 2016 has been rough for so many. For those that are grieving or suffering, my wish is that 2017 brings a new hope, a new light, and a renewed resilience. A new beginning…

Can we make that their gift in the coming year? And can they get it early? January 1st perhaps?

Sincerely,

 

 

All I Want for Christmas …

 

It’s almost unreal that we are only a week from Christmas.  I’m proud to kick off our two special holiday weeks with my favorite letter to Santa. Like everyone else, I always wrote letters to Santa when I was a child, but when I went back and pulled out an old box of “stuff” I found this letter to Santa.  I hope you enjoy.

December 1969

Dear Santa,

I’m sure you don’t get many requests for a present like what I’m asking.

Santa, could you please bring me our little baby boy, Charles Robert Paul Miranda.  The doctor told me today that he’s ready but just not willing to face the world yet.  So if you could hurry getting him into the world, I’d appreciate it.  I’m even enclosing a picture, so you can see we’re ready for his arrival.

  • Now, Santa, you might ask how I know we’re having a boy, but we’ve done all of the practical things to tell us which sex we’re having.
  • Since girls are naturally sweet, if I’m carrying a girl, I’d crave sweets.  But I don’t. I prefer sour and salty foods.
  • Of course, I’ve been told by a zillion people that I’m carrying a little boy because I’m carrying him low.
  • Now this one I’m not so sure about but a lot of women have told me that if I lead off with my right foot, it’s a boy.  Frankly, I thought I had been doing that all along, but apparently not, so that’s another indicator we’re having a little boy.
  • But the one that is 100% sure is, “One Ring to Bind Them.”  A friend suspended a gold ring on a string over my tummy.  It swung side-by-side, so I know I’m carrying a little boy.  Otherwise we’d be having a little girl if the ring took on a circular sway.

Santa, now I have to go because my back is hurting and I’m tired, so I’ll finish this letter tomorrow!

Three weeks later!

  1. Well, Santa, I didn’t forget you but couldn’t get  back because I’ve been in the hospital twice trying to have our little Christmas present.  The tiny one was pretty stubborn.
  2. We ended up in quite a dilemma, since we’d already promised Bob’s dad and my dad that their grandson would be named after them.  Well, what do you know … little Charles Robert Paul Miranda ended up being Kathleen Louella!  Yes, a little girl.  This picture is one of my favorite.  I’ve tagged it “Bob the Baker”.  I have no idea why her daddy had to dress up like a baker just to see her, but rules are rules!
  3. Well, Santa, I guess I shouldn’t blame you, but since you’re such a precious man, I know you can take it.  We were so sure we were having a little boy, as well as knowing he’d arrive by Christmas, so could I ask you for a name since we had none picked out for a girl?  The last examination I had in the doctor’s office, the nurse asked what names we had in mind and I told her.  Then she said, “You know it’s not 100% positive which sex you’re gonna have until you deliver … don’t you?”  I told her we were 100% sure it was a boy, but if it turned out to be a little girl, we’d name her after the nurse, who we knew well.
  4. So now Santa we have our baby girl and although you didn’t get her here before Christmas Day, we’re very happy with your choice … our little Kathleen Louella Miranda.
  5. Well, dear Santa, I’m putting this letter in safe keeping and when our second little girl comes around, I’ll send it all to you.
  6. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

To one reader who leave a comment, I will give you an autographed copy of Wishing for a Cowboy.  A short-story collection  of eight stories with some written by a sister Filly.  Good luck to all!

 

Updated: December 19, 2016 — 11:35 am

Naughty or Nice?

Linda pubpixChristmas is full of ringing bells, a soft warm throw, and hot drinks. But it also means gift-buying and hiding things and calls for a lot of plain old sneakiness.

Bad as I hate to admit it, I have a confession to make. I’m a snoopy person. There, my secret is out. Everyone in my family knows it. I’m not exactly proud of it, but I can’t seem to stop. I just have an insatiable curiosity. Especially when it comes to brightly wrapped gifts with my name on them. There’s nothing like that to put my well-honed skills to the test.

wrapped-giftIt all started when I was big enough to read and recognize my name. The minute those wrapped gifts came out, I’d wait until everyone was busy and not looking then I’d sneak the gift into a safe place where I wouldn’t be disturbed. (I tried to wait until everyone was out of the house but often my curiosity wouldn’t let me. I tell you, it was bad.) The best place in the house was the bathroom where no one would question a locked door. I became very skilled at removing the tape without tearing or messing up the paper. I’d quickly see what was inside and put everything back exactly like I’d found it. I never got caught back then. If I had, I would’ve gotten my sneaky little behind tanned. No, I was very careful. And I became so accomplished at the art that my little sister would beg me to do the same with hers.

And then I figured out that it was easier to peek at them BEFORE they got wrapped. Duh! I’d climb onto a chair so I could reach the top of my mom’s closet. That was generally her hiding place for the Santa stuff and presents she hadn’t had time to wrap yet. Another good spot was in her dresser drawers. No place was safe from my inquiring fingers. I was such bad, bad girl. To my knowledge, no one found out.

Although….one Christmas my mama looked at me really odd. I think she knew and the thought I disappointed her even now puts a big lump in my throat.

It never occurred to me to that it was more fun to wait for the surprise. I just never had that much patience. But what’s bad is that I’m still that way. I’m hopeless. Years ago, when everyone was still at home, my husband and kids got wise to me and either put my gifts under lock and key or they waited until the very last possible minute to buy them. Used to frustrate me to no end.

santa.gif

I think being snoopy has had its advantages though. It’s come in mighty handy in writing my stories. That early training has helped me dig for those illusive facts and little hidden details that add depth to my stories. My snoopiness has worked in chipping away the ore in the mine for those sparkling golden nuggets. It’s also been helpful in finding ways to craft satisfying story endings. Searching for, digging, and unearthing the gifts that have my name on them.

Oh, and I reckon this is a good time to confess that I always have to read the last page of a book before I buy it. For some odd reason, I must know that everything is going to end well before I invest time in reading a story. Drat these ebooks! They won’t let me!

I don’t know if it’s true about confession being good for the soul or not, but I feel better. But I imagine this pretty well seals my fate at a time when Santa’s making his list and checking it twice. I’m reasonably sure I’ll find Linda Broday on the naughty side of the ledger.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

How about you? The confessional’s open. Do you have something you need to get off your chest? But are you brave enough?

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Gaviota Pass, California

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetFor the last few posts, I’ve been writing about El Camino Real and the haunted missions along the way.  Today, I’m going to discuss one area of Highway 101 that I bet just about everybody has seen on television commericals … the Gaviota Pass one and a half miles west of Gaviota, near Santa Barbara, California.

gaviota-pass-tunnel-for-pp-11-29-16It’s a place where the road narrows to just a few feet.  It’s where El Camino Real moves away from the coast and into the interior of California.  The long climb up the grade takes travelers to Mission Santa Inez and La Purisima, which I’ve previously blogged on.  The land mark is a haunted one, also.   gaviota-pass-memorial-for-pp-11-16

This bronze plaque commemorates where on Christmas day 1846 an ambush set up by Mexican loyalists to stop Lt. Col. John Fremont’s U.S. troops from moving south forcing the Americans to take a more labored approach to capture Santa Barbara where it was captured without bloodshed.

The ghosts of Gaviota Pass date to an earlier time when a detachment of Spanish Lancers were set upon by the local inhabitants. The Spanish were forced to retreat down the road and through the pass toward to coast. For a while it looked like the Natives would win the day, but as the warriors prepared to mount a charge on the exhausted Spanish Troops a strong wind came up from the sea and inland. In desperation the Spanish set fire to the dry grass in the pass. The flames fueled by the ocean’s wind roared up the pass.  The native warriors trapped in the conflagration were burned to death.

Defeated spirits haunt the pass today. Some have reported seeing a figure who wanders alone. Local legend is that this is the chief who led his people into the fiery defeat. There is no doubt this is a spooky place, especially for those who visit the place at night.  When the wind blows one may still hear the horrible wails of those warriors succumbing to fire.

Now my truth.  I’ve gone through this pass hundreds of times, during all times of the night and day, and my daughter who lives in Santa Barbara County travels to LA regularly and neither of us have seen or heard anything.  I certainly want to make it clear that I’m not discounting any of this as fact, because I just know that sole legendary chief will make sure I believe in him the next time I’m around the pass.

Those of you who have traveled the 101 and gone through this pass, have you ever had any weird sensations.

Okay, as I promised this is the month, I’m telling you all about my grandson’s experience at the La Purisima Mission not far from his home.  Last summer when I was out there for four months, he came out from college in Texas to one of his sister’s graduation.  A friend from Texas had moved out to Santa Barbara with her family, so they went ghost busting at the mission.  They climbed over the gate, as others did, and after not finding anything that interested them, they returned to his folks home.  When his friend started to leave, she couldn’t find her keys.  She was sure they were secured in her closed up shoulder bag. They looked everywhere and could find them, so as a last resort they went back to the La Purisima.

When they turned into the drive right outside the gate they saw a flash.  Checking it out, they found not only her keys but a billfold, both which had been crushed.  There was no way a car could have done it.  They came home certain that this had to be an act of one of the Mission’s ghosts.

There wasn’t a driver’s license in the billfold, but a card for a doctor’s appointment and cash.  They physician’s clerk called the gentleman and told him where his billfold was but never mentioned where it was found.  I answered the door when he showed up. He was pleasantly surprised we had his billfold but perplexed because he was sure it had been secure in his back pocket which was zipped up. “Where was it found?,” he asked.  When I told him, all he could say was “That dern ghost must have stolen it, crushed the dern thing to let us know not to go ghost busting out there again.”

Now you tell me whether you think it was just a coincidence or a reminder from our La Purisima ghosts not to bother them at night?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will give away an autographed copy of the award winning anthology A Texas Christmas by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me.

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Updated: November 28, 2016 — 8:06 pm

Fun With Fictional Town Names

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Hello! Winnie Griggs here. I’m buried in revisions that really need to get turned in tomorrow, so I hope you’ll forgive me for revisiting an old post today. This is actually the first post I ever did here on Petticoats & Pistols, back in March of 2009. Back then I was a guest poster, not a bona fide Filly and was quite green at the art of blogging. But everyone, both Fillies and commenters alike, were so warm and welcoming that I was overjoyed to later be invited to come on as a regular.

And since I’m reusing an old post, I’ll freshen it up a bit with a giveaway.  See details below!

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I have always been fascinated by colorful and quirky small town names.

I grew up in South Louisiana so I was familiar with town names such as Westwego, Cut Off,  Dutchtown, Raceland, Crown Point, Head of Island, French Settlement and Grosse Tete (French for Big Head).

For someone who already had storytelling in her blood, these names really sparked my imagination.  I spent many childhood hours making up stories about how all these towns got their curious names.  Westwego – was it named by some settlers from back east who travelled great distances and decided this was far enough?  Or was it merely a stopping point for folks headed even farther west?   And who in the world would name their town Big Head?  At some point I learned Dutchtown was actually settled by German immigrants and was originally called Deutschtown, but the name evolved over the years into what it is today.  Another fascinating story-sparker!

When I went to college I moved further north while still remaining in Louisiana and encountered a whole new map of town names to puzzle over.  There I encountered towns with names like Bunkie, Dry Prong, Flatwoods, Powhatten and Breezy Hill.  Again, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering about the circumstances and people who settled these places.

Then I married my college sweetheart, my own prince charming.  He swept me away to his home town, a place I was delighted to discover was called Plain Dealing.

Today, whenever I start a new book, finding the right name for my town (always fictional) is just as important to me as finding the right names for my hero and heroine.  There is always a story in my mind about how the town name came to be, though that rarely makes it to the pages of the book.

My first book, WHAT MATTERS MOST, was set in the Texas town of Far Enough.  The town name was based on my childhood musing over the real town of Westwego.  I pictured a small group of settlers travelling through the area and the womenfolk getting tired of the whole thing and telling their menfolk they’d travelled ‘Far Enough’ and were ready to settle down NOW!

For my second book, SOMETHING MORE, the heroine arrives on the scene at a stage relay station called Whistling Oak.  The name came about when I pictured a giant oak with a hole formed by two trunks that had not quite fused together.  As the stagecoach driver explains it to the heroine, “See that ol’ oak tree over yonder with the hole in the middle?  That’s what gave this place its name.  Big wind blows through just right and you can hear the whistling for near a mile.”

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Large flocks of small blackbirds winter near my home.  Hundreds of them will land in fields or trees in the area.  If something comes along to spook them, they all fly up at once, like a scattering of pepper on the wind.  That was the inspiration for Pepper Cloud, MO,  the town my third book, WHATEVER IT TAKES, takes place in.

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My fourth book, A WILL OF HR OWN, is set in a town called Clover Ridge, VA, a somewhat more mundane town name than I normally go for.  But I wanted something that was indicative of lushness and serenity.  Besides, the story doesn’t tarry there for long.  A good one third of the book actually takes place aboard a ship.

Turnabout, TX was the town name I chose for my fifth book, LADY’S CHOICE.  That one was almost a no brainer since the whole theme of the book, in both the primary and secondary storylines, was about turning one’s life around after having made poor choices earlier in life. (2016 update: That book was revised and republished in 2012 under the title HANDPICKED HUSBAND and was the first book of my current Texas Grooms series)

When I started work on my current release, I struggled for quite a while with what to name the town.   I came up with and eventually discarded several names.  THE HAND-ME-DOWN FAMILY is my first foray into the inspirational market and I wanted something that would provide a subtle nod to that change.  I also wanted it to have that rural, small town feel and be just a tiny bit quirky at the same time.  And then one morning I woke up and there it was.  Sweetgum TX.  The sweetgum tree is indigenous to the area, the name is fun and rustic sounding and the word itself has that hint of heart to it that I was looking for.

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2016 Update: Since the time I wrote this post I’ve come up with a number of other town names for my books – Knotty Pine, Tippanyville, Foxberry and Frog Swallow among the more notable.

So, do you pay very much attention to town names in book?  Do they help set the tone for you at all?  And are there real town names you’ve come across that have tickled your fancy, piqued your interest or just plain caught your eye?  Share some of your favorites.

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GIVEAWAY: I’ll be selecting one person from the list of those who comment on this post to receive one book of their choice from my entire backlist.  Drawing will take place some time after noon Central Time on Tuesday.

Updated: November 6, 2016 — 11:28 pm

Mission Santa Ines on the El Camino Real

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetIt seems like just last week I blogged with you all … well it was!  But if you can stand me one more day, I’m going to continue along the El Camino Real and write about another Mission I visited not long ago.

My youngest granddaughter came home from school and said she had an end-of-the-year school project and needed my help.  She had to select a mission and write about its history, as well as draw pictures.  Of course the Mission La Purisima was the first one to come to mind, but as she reminded me, anybody could drive the two or three miles to get a bird’s eye view.  The next choice is where we went every Wednesday to the market in Solvang … Mission Santa Inez.  It was a great choice, so we rounded up as many grands who wanted to go and my daughter and I headed towards Solvang.  We could kill three birds with one stone, go to the market, go to our favorite winery while the kids went to the ice cream shop, and visit the Mission for Addison’s project.  What a wonderful outing!front-view-of-santa-ines

But first some history.  Mission Santa Inez was founded in September 1804, and was known for their excellency in saddle making.  Today the Mission is fairly well dwarfed by the tourist town of Solvang.  This is one of the most beautiful Missions I’ve visited, but like the others I’ve written about, it has folklore to match it’s magnificence!

chapel-santa-inezOne story tells of a dark vampire that once inhabited the church when it was in ruin.  The tale says that there is a creature that will suck the blood from the toes of any hapless stranger who sleeps the night in the chapel and has the bad luck to remove his shoes.  Maybe the tale has its origin in the owls who once perched in the building long ago. Maybe not.  Maybe it’s just a myth!

Another legend caught my attention because it tells that the statue of San Antonio, that was brought by the Spanish padres, is somehow blessed and has the power to grant one prayer of an unselfish nature.

This quiet and beautiful place wasn’t always so peaceful, for it was here in 1824 that the Great Revolt started.  The Chumash native converts grew tired of the cruel treatment afforded them by the Spanish soldiers, and revolted in a bloody rampage which lasted a month.  According to folklore, A Chumash woman  warned the padres of the uprising saving many lives.  As the legend goes, she was buried under the alter in a special site reserved for padres and political leaders.  Maybe it is this woman who haunts the grounds of the old graveyard-santa-inezchurch.  Some say they feel her presence near the old laundry basin.  It is said that tape recordings made at the cemetery and laundry area always seems to pick up stray whispers and the mournful wail of a Native American flute.

The site is calm now, but if its memories do replay to the visitor, this should be a very haunted site indeed.

santa-inez-back-yardNow for where Addison and I worked.  This is the backside of the Mission.  We sat on the wishing well and I helped her vocalize the mission, without the ghosts, but it’s history.  She did a fantastically beautiful drawing from this view.  She’s like her PawPa, an artist at heart.  I lost five dollars in coins to the wishing  well.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my visit to California a few months ago.  Stick with me because I’m still going to revisit the Mission La Purisima and tell you about my college grandson’s real adventure with what could have been a ghost.  I’ll let you all decide.

And, yes we all had ice cream, got some beautiful vegetables along with strawberries, blueberries, and some wonderful mulberries, as well as a couple of bouquets of flowers and headed home … no Lucas and Lewellen Tasting Room for us that day.

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  To two readers who leave a comment, I’ll put your names in one of my

lady Stetson hats direct from Solvang and you can select

your choice of one of my eBooks from Amazon.

Hugs from Texas to all you all, Phyliss

Updated: October 3, 2016 — 7:00 pm
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