Category: Personal Glimpses

Freedom Isn’t Free

Before my son graduated from Texas A&M University and entered the Air Force, I took our freedom for granted. Since then articles on the plight of veterans hold a new meaning. My son was deployed twice but he is one of the lucky ones. He escaped any lasting trauma. Other veterans haven’t been as fortunate, because you know what? Freedom isn’t free.

For most of us, the Fourth of July means food, family, fireworks and fun. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. For those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and some estimates say this is as many as one half million vets, this holiday is difficult. For them, fireworks sound like artillery and throw them back on the battlefield amid the death and destruction of war.

Some veterans have placed signs in their yards saying, “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” They hope this will increase awareness and encourage discussions about PTSD. If you plan to shoot off fireworks tonight, please give any veterans living nearby a heads up. This allows them to prepare to deal with their possible reactions and keeps them from being caught unaware.

We owe these men and woman because of the cost they’ve paid for our freedom. We owe them whatever help we can offer. That brings up the question, what helps veterans deal with PTSD or the other issues plaguing them after serving our country? In doing research? I’ve discovered two agencies who work tirelessly to change veterans’ lives for the better.

While researching my current book, the third in my Wishing Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, I visited Patriot Paws in Rockwall, Texas. This agency provides service dogs to veterans with physical disabilities or PTSD. Service dogs can perform tasks a disabled vet is unable to or provide emotional support. Either way, they help veterans regain control of their lives. Unfortunately, agencies such as Patriot Paws are too few and the wait lists too long. Veterans often wait YEARS to receive their service dog. For more information on go to http://www.patriotpaws.org.

Another wonderful agency helping veterans is Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship south of downtown Dallas. I discovered this wonderful organization when doing research for Roping the Rancher. My hero turned his horse ranch into a similar organization when he left the military. Like numerous veterans, he struggled to find a purpose with meaning after returning to civilian life. Equest’s program,

Hooves For Heroes, does amazing work helping veterans struggling with the lack of purpose issue, as well as, depression and PTSD. For more information go to http://www.equest.org.

No matter what your plans today, I wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July. But please take time to remember those veterans whose lives have been impacted serving our country. Some of them and their families have paid a very high price because Freedom isn’t free.

Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Roping the Rancher. 

Updated: July 4, 2018 — 6:41 am

Beware Cowboy Fever; It Can Sneak Up on You!

(My publisher is running a 99 cent special on my book High Button Shoes today only! See below!)

I bet you didn’t know this, but cowboy boots multiply when you’re not looking.  Or at least that’s what happened at my house.  It all started when someone gave me one—ONE!—cowboy boot planter for my yard.  That’s all it took. Before I knew it, another boot showed up

Do you know what happens when family, friends and neighbors walk in and see two of anything?  They immediately think you’re a collector.   People love collectors.  It makes gift-giving so much easier.  No thinking required.

Soon, I was drinking my morning coffee out of a boot-shaped cup and washing my hands with soap from boot dispensers.  Cowboy boots took over my jewelry box as earrings, framed my family photos and opened my wine bottles. And it didn’t stop there.

Somewhere along the line my boot collection expanded into all things western. Cowboy nutcrackers started showing up on my window sills. Western plaques began adorning my walls.  Miniature horses took over table tops.  Even my feathered friends were treated to bird houses shaped like saloons.   

No longer do my children, grandchildren or friends have to slave over a Christmas shopping list trying to figure out what to give me.   The word is out; Grandma/mom likes everything, as long as it’s western.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I thank my lucky stars that the planter that started it all had been a cowboy boot and not something gross like, say, a zombie! 

                  Are you a collector and if so, did you become one on purpose or by accident?

On Sale Today Only, for 99 cents!

High Button Shoes

A feisty widow; a dashing outlaw—something’s definitely afoot.

Amazon

Updated: June 29, 2018 — 9:25 am

Cowboy Fever – Rodeo Style

Hello Everyone!

It’s exciting to be part of Cowboy Fever week! I love small rodeos, so today I’m sharing with you some candid shots showing what happens behind the chutes before the rough stock competition begins. The time behind the chutes is surprisingly quiet, considering what happens after the gates are open and the broncs hit the arena bucking.

The cowboys tape up, put on their chaps, practice their form.

They also saddle their broncs, usually alone.

Then they wait near their chute and their horse until it’s time for their ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that, of course, they ride.

Then make a graceful exit from the arena, ready to do it all over again the next chance they get.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look behind the chutes during Cowboy Fever Week!

Pam Crooks is Baaaack!!

And what better time for me to come back than during our special Cowboy Fever Week?

Some of you may already know that I was one of the founding fillies here at Petticoats & Pistols, back when we first launched in August, 2007.  I was busy writing historical western romances for Harlequin, and I blogged monthly for years.  I got to know many of you and enjoyed chatting with you during that time.

As sometimes happens with authors, I got the itch to try something different, and I delved into self-publishing my 1920s historical romantic suspense series, the Secret Six.  Then life happened, and I had to step back from all writing for a little while.  Both of my parents passed away within a few months of each other last year, and the responsibility fell to me to settle their estate.  By the time, I could breathe again, the urge to feel like a writer ran strong within me.

And I missed cowboys.  Guess the fever never died, eh?  So the beginning of this year, I pulled together a contemporary western proposal and submitted to Tule Publishing.  In a few weeks, I had a contract with them, and I was on my way to being a western romance writer again!

I had heard about Tule in a roundabout way through one of our past fillies, Jane Porter.  Tule is a company she helped found, and there have been a number of fillies who have releases with them, namely Jeannie Watt, Marin Thomas, Trish Milburn, Julie Benson, and Charlene Sands, to name a few.

Currently, we are tweaking my new manuscript, so I don’t yet have a release date, a cover, or even a title.  But I promise to tell you all about Ava and Beau’s story in the coming months.  I hope you’ll stay tuned.

In the meantime, Tule has a sweet spot for contemporary western romance.  I invite you to check them out.   http://www.tulepublishing.com

Even better, subscribe here to their newsletter and get weekly updates of all of their latest releases!

 

Please hop on and say “Howdy!”.  I’d love to meet you!

Updated: June 23, 2018 — 8:43 pm

Introducing Pinky

Hello everyone! I would like to introduce my new calf Pinky.

She’s not like her brothers and sisters.

 

She was the result of a difficult birth and she and her mother had to be separated from the herd for several days while she recovered and learned to nurse. We had to give her her first feeding manually to make certain she got the colostrum she needed to develop her immune system. She always sticks close to her mama now.

This is Pinky getting ready to be vaccinated.

She’s not too sure about all of this.

The herd is out on summer grass now. The grass is literally shoulder high. The calves disappear into it. We feed in sections, moving the fence every couple days so that the cows have new grass and the old grass has time to recover. We’ll rotate through the pastures twice this summer if all goes well.  Can you spot Pinky in the photo below?

And that’s it from me and Pinky. We hope you have an excellent day!

Welcome Guest – Karen Kirst!!!

Isn’t it funny how seemingly random things can be linked to childhood memories? Every time I eat a summer ripe tomato, I’m reminded of my best friend, Angela. She lived in a house on the lake, and after a full day of sun and water, we worked up quite the appetite. I can still picture us in her kitchen, maybe ten or eleven years old, eating fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes like they were apples. My dear friend is gone now, but I have a whole host of sweet memories to remind me of our time together.

I was in a bookstore the other day and came across a toy called Fashion Plates. Instantly, I was taken back to long road trips in my parents’ station wagon. We were allowed to ride in the open space in the back, and I whiled away the miles assembling various outfits and tracing my crayons over the paper to create pictures. I almost bought it, even though I don’t have daughters. I wanted to buy it simply for nostalgia’s sake.

This month marks the end of Love Inspired Historical. While I’m sad about it, I have many of my favorite authors’ books on my keeper shelf. And I have cards, letters and emails from readers that I will keep and treasure in years to come.

What about you? Do you have certain songs, objects or places that remind you of your childhood? I’d love to hear about it.

~~~~~

Karen is giving away one print copy of Romancing the Runaway Bride to only lucky reader. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered!

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Romancing the Runaway Bride
by Karen Kirst

Click to buy on Amazon

Though she came west in her wedding dress, Deborah Frazier isn’t looking for a groom. She fled St. Louis to escape marrying a man she didn’t love. In Cowboy Creek, she’s found shelter, friends and a job. All that’s now in jeopardy, thanks to a handsome newcomer.

Undercover Pinkerton agent Adam Halloway is hunting for his family’s greatest enemy. The pretty baker at the boardinghouse is certainly hiding something—but is she an accomplice to a criminal? As eviden

~~~~~

Karen Kirst was born and raised in East Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains. She attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she received a B.A. in Speech Communication. A lifelong lover of books, it wasn’t until after college that she had the grand idea to write one herself. The pursuit of her dream would take longer than she first anticipated…years, in fact. In the fall of 2010, she got the happy news that Harlequin Love Inspired Historicals wanted to publish her manuscript-a true blessing from God. Now she divides her time between being a wife, homeschooling mom, and romance writer. She and her husband, along with their three boys, recently said goodbye to military life and are thrilled to be back home in Tennessee.

Karen’s Website

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Updated: June 14, 2018 — 8:13 am

Laura Ingalls Wilder at Rocky Ridge

 

Back in April, I attended a writing retreat in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun and great writerly conversations. But thanks to a reader’s recommendation, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a little side journey to Mansfield, MO. When I discovered that the home where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote the Little House books was only an hour away, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to visit.

I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television series. It is because of Laura’s books and others like them that I became so enamored with historical fiction. Getting to actually walk through the house that Almanzo built for Laura, to see the room where their daughter Rose slept as a girl, to see the small desk where Laura sat to write her novels . . . it gave me chills.

The tour guide took us through the house in the order that it was built. It started as two rooms and expanded over the years to contain three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, music room, small library, and front parlor. Laura and Almanzo both lived into their 90’s, and the caretakers have kept their house almost exactly as they left it upon their deaths. There were several lamps that Almanzo made by hand along with chairs and other furnishings. They wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside the house, but I bought a few postcards to help me remember.

This the back of the house where the tour began. There is a screened off porch leading to the kitchen, a narrow ladder staircase that led to Rose’s childhood bedroom upstairs, and the dining room just past the kitchen.

Front of the house. This is the section built on in later years . If you walk up the steps, you will enter the front parlor. The library will be in a little walled alcove behind the fireplace on the left and the music room will be down the hall to the right. There is also a doorway to the right before the music room that led to Laura’s writing desk, her and Almanzo’s bedroom, and a staircase to a guest room on the second floor where Rose would often invite her New York friends to stay when they needed a break from city life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Wilder Lane was a successful writer well before her mother decided to pen the stories of her life. Rose published several novels and wrote for many popular magazines. She traveled extensively in Europe and made quite a nice living for herself. So in 1928 before the stock market crash that would send the country into an economic crisis, Rose decided to build her parents a new house. She purchased it from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and hired an architect to make a few structural changes. They called it The Rock House because Rose had it fashioned like an English stone cottage. It was less than a mile from their farm at Rocky Ridge. Laura and Almanzo moved to the Rock House and stayed there for eight years. But in 1936 when Rose decided to move back to New York, the Wilders moved back to their beloved farm house. As much as they appreciate their daughter’s gift, the Rock House just wasn’t home.

Back at Rocky Ridge, we had the opportunity to visit a wonderful museum filled with artifacts from Laura’s life including her Pa’s fiddle and original manuscripts. There were notes in the margins where Rose had obviously given her mother editorial advice, and no doubt Rose’s connections with the publishing world in New York opened doors for her mother that Laura would never had been able to open for herself, but seeing those manuscripts in Laura’s own handwriting made it abundantly clear in my mind that those who claim Rose was the true author of the Little House stories are mistaken.

The final place we visited was the small community cemetery where the Wilders are laid to rest. Having seen their lives portrayed on television and in novels made them seem larger than life. Yet seeing their graves made it truly sink in that they were real people, living real lives. What an amazing adventure they shared.

So, if you ever happen to travel through Missouri, do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours in Mansfield with this amazing family.

  • Did you grow up reading the Little House books?
  • Did you watch the TV show?
  • Besides Laura, who was your favorite Little House character?

Thank You Bees and Lady Bird Johnson

A couple weeks ago, my neighbor discovered a bee swarm on one of our fence posts. (When I first saw it, the swarm was twice the size of the one pictured.) Being a conservationist, I was concerned the swarm was honeybees. Being a paranoid dog owner/foster, I was worried what could happen if dogs and bees met. Thankfully, my ever-calm hubby hopped on the Internet and called Little Giant Beekeepers.

The woman he spoke with said the swarm was probably resting after their hive had been disturbed. They’d send out scouts, find a new home and move in a day or two. But, if we wanted, they could send a beekeeper. With me imagining one or more dogs not having the sense to leave the bees alone, getting stung, and having an allergic reaction, we opted for the beekeeper.

Turned out the bees were honeybees. When Miguel came, he suited up, and with an Amazon box and brush in hand, he swept them into the box! He accomplished the task amazingly fast. (Miguel later told us once the queen is in the box, the remaining bees pretty much follow.) Then he taped the box shut and said the bees would be relocated.

The bee incident made me thinking about Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy. This time of year, wildflowers, particularly Texas’ state flower bluebonnets, bloom along highways and in medians, continuing the conservation efforts she started decades ago. According to http://www.pbs.org/ladybird, on January 27, 1965, Lady Bird wrote in her diary, “Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool. All the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks—national, state and local.”

I’ve always felt passionately about issues. Rarely am I on the fence. These days, two of my soap box issues are conservation and saving honeybees. I keep thinking about planting bee friendly plants–sage, salvia, lavender, clover and native wildflowers. Honeybees are struggling to survive. I believe we all need to do our part to help. After all, as Lady Bird said, everything is interwoven, and honeybees pollinate most plants, including our food. No bees? Life will get tough for other animals. Humans included.

I think the bee swarm was the universe telling me to quit talking about it and improve my garden. This weekend I intend to take a tip from Lady Bird Johnson and plant flowers, because like she believed, “beauty can improve the mental health of a society,” and of course, I’ll choose bee friendly plants. We should be kind to our planet and its inhabitants, honeybees included. We’re in this together, and we should keep the Earth healthy. As French president Macron said, there is no Planet B. 

Tonight I’ll select one reader who leaves a comment to receive a Book Club wine glass and a copy of To Catch a Texas Cowboy, where my heroine runs a B&B, The Bluebonnet Inn.

Updated: May 2, 2018 — 7:22 am

Life Always Looks Better in the Saddle

I know the Easter Bunny has come and hopped away, but one day at my favorite shop, Rustic Ranch, I saw the little guy below and couldn’t resist him for a blog giveaway! Since I had an Easter giveaway, I decided to stick with the theme for the post. While researching old-west Easter traditions—or attempting to because my brain and Google’s are on two different wave lengths—I stumbled across an April 21, 2011 article on patch.com. The story by Ryan E. Smith was about Shepherd of the Hills Church and them encouraging people to ride to Easter service on horseback!

The article according to Kathy Alonzo says, “…riding around the area—whether it’s to the store, a service, or a local event can be a wonderful experience.” Then it mentioned that Alonzo is involved in two therapeutic horse programs. Those two things got me thinking how my characters often find the world looks better on horseback. In fact, at least one of my heroes has utter almost exactly those words.

Many animals, particularly horses and dogs, have healing properties we haven’t begun to understand. Equestrian programs help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, and other physical, mental, social or emotional challenges. If horseback riding can help with these major life difficulties, think of what it could do for day-to-day stresses. On their website, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, the organization that assisted with my research for Roping the Rancher, says, “To anyone who has been smitten by the calm I’ve-seen-it-all gaze of a horse, or who has stood beside a horse and believed the horse was literally seeing into her soul, the concept of horse-as-healer is not a great stretch.”

In my stories my characters often have a connection with the land around them and have a sense of the Old West heritage. Not only that, but they frequently learn how this connection, along with one to animals changes a person for the better. Technology is wonderful and has improved our lives in countless ways, but there needs to be a better balance between old and new. Maybe we should do more of what Shepherd of the Hills Church did and encourage people to ride a horse to ride to church.

Not all of us have access to a horse, but there are other options that we aren’t using in our society. Families used to live closer together and when Mom and Dad had to work, grandparents were there to help with children. Everyone benefited. No one was alone. That reminded me of an episode of The Middle where Patricia Heaton’s character Frankie wonders why we have separate animal shelters, nursing homes and daycare centers. She talks about how all three groups would benefit from spending time together. I’ve often thought so, too.

My recommendation today is for everyone today to spend time with a young person. Pet a dog or cat. Or, if you’re lucky and have access to a horse, saddle up! Ride to the store, or just around the countryside. No matter what your problems are, I’m betting life will look a lot better after you do.

Now leave me a comment for a chance to win my Easter giveaway!

Updated: April 3, 2018 — 6:11 pm

Allison B. Collins Dreams Up Her Stories

I’m so excited to be here on Petticoats & Pistols today! What a wonderful group of women who all love cowboys as much as I do.  Thank you for having me here, ladies!

A couple of years ago I had a dream about five brothers who ran a ranch with their dad. In this dream I saw the oldest brother was a wounded Army veteran returning home, there was a veterinarian, a charmer, a very cynical man burned by love, and a rebel cowboy.  I even saw their assorted girlfriends or wives.  The only anomaly was that the dream ended with a fashion show in which they all participated. (That was my day job insinuating itself into my cowboy dream!)

When I woke up from the dream, it was still so vivid in my mind I had to write it all down. And it stuck with me so much I knew I had to turn it into a book. Or rather, five books.

The first book in the series about a wounded rancher debuts this month, published by Harlequin. I’m so very excited that “A Family for the Rancher” is finally here.  This quote from Pinnochio has been running through my mind all week: “I’m a real boy!”  Well, for me now “It’s a real book!”

I’m a fifth generation Texan, so I’ve got the Old West running deep in my veins. I was born and raised in El Paso, which is THE farthest west you can go in Texas.  Among my ancestors are a Texas Ranger and a spy for Robert E. Lee. Future stories? You better believe it.

I live in Dallas now, practically at the base of Southfork Ranch. Remember J.R., Bobby, Sue Ellen, and Pam? It’s still a thrill every time I drive by that house, and the theme song runs on continuous loop in my head.

I guess my love of cowboys has been with me all my life.  I love sweet tea, bluebonnets, cowboy boots, and western hats.  Heck, the Resistol Hat factory is practically around the corner from my house!  Cowboys have a code of honor bone deep, one they live their entire lives by. They’re good to their mommas, their sweethearts, and their animals.

Perhaps John Wayne said it best: “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.”  My Sullivan brothers follow that creed.

For the Cowboys to Grooms series I took the story to Montana. Where else could I write about vast open lands, soaring mountains, sunny summer days, and cold winter days where the hero and heroine are snowbound in a log cabin for days on end?

My husband and I spent some time in Montana a few years ago, and I just fell in love with the whole state. Crystal clear water, abundant wildlife, and cowboys!  In fact, the scene in which Kelsey sees a bear while kissing Nash was inspired by my first bear sighting on that trip.

As I write, I have to visualize the characters, so Pinterest is my best friend.  If you’d like to see who my inspiration is for each of the five Sullivan brothers, here’s a link to my board:  http://tinyurl.com/ycrflp2

Oh, and since I also love weddings, I couldn’t resist writing a little twist into the last scene of each book—it’s what determines which brother’s book comes next in the Cowboys to Grooms series!

* * * *

Nash Sullivan doesn’t need help from anyone. Not his father, not his brothers and sure as heck not from a physical therapist—even a darn feisty one like Kelsey Summers. He lost his leg during his overseas deployment and he just wants to be left alone. Besides, the last thing a woman like Kelsey needs is half a man.

Single mom Kelsey knows all too well that the scars on the inside run the deepest. She needs to move on from her own tragic past, but the Sullivan ranch is starting to feel a little too much like home. And she can’t stop thinking about her wounded—and gorgeous—patient. Could Nash be the cure for her own broken heart?

* * * *

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of “A Family for the Rancher” (Kindle ebook or autographed print book – winner’s choice), let me know who your favorite cowboys are (old or new), and why.  I’d love to chat with you here on Petticoats & Pistols!

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