Category: Personal Glimpses

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.

pepper-cloud

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.

sweetgum

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

Fun Facts about Filly Phyliss

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This is Filly Fun Fact week and it’s my turn to share with you all some of my life.  First off, I was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle on the caprock.  Lots of folks have the idea that the Panhandle is only sage brush and yucca, but it’s not.  It has some of the most beautiful wildflowers, yucca blossoms, and cattle in the United States.  Okay, here goes ten things that most of you don’t know about me.

palo-duro-canyon-for-trr1.  Probably the most interesting part of me is my heritage.  First of all, Daddy was a “Fly boy” as they called the soldiers stationed at the Amarillo Air Force Base at the end of WWII.  Daddy was walking down Polk Street and saw just the back of Mother sitting at the soda fountain.  He fell in love with her red hair peeping through a drug store window.  They married and about nine or ten months later, I came along and then three more sisters.  So I’m definitely an A personality with a tad of OCD dusted over me.  Need I say more!

My daddy’s family came to the United States following the overthrow of Kiser Wilhelm and changed their name.  We don’t know why they left Germany.  Were they a part of the overthrow and had to leave for protection?  Or, were they part of Daddy’s preferred story … royalty who  were brought to America and changed their name to Pannier for their own safety and to start a new life?  We’ll likely never know, except it’s obvious that we have a lot of German heritage in us.  So, then my mama, a pure southern lady born in Louisiana and Texan implant, married Daddy, a Yankee through and through.  Black-eyed peas were for the hogs, so they were never served in our house!

Now for mama’s side of the family.  Born in 1898, Grannie’s given name was Petrolea Pauline Womack and she wassouthern-belle raised on the Womack Plantation in Louisiana.  You talk about a pure southern belle and Baptist, who never drank but loved Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Until recently, the town of Womack was listed in all road maps and atlases.  She married my grandfather Alva Robert Johnson, a railroad worker who was the grandson of a true Blackfoot Indian princess. There were two things I knew I’d have when we went to their house…Hershey Chocolate Drops and the little 8 oz. bottles of Coke, like those recently released.  He thought the flavor of the larger bottle were diluted.  And, yes, you can see the Blackfoot heritage in our family.

bass-guitar2.  I cannot sing!  My girls even whispered to me in church to please stop singing; however, I can play the bass guitar. I never liked the guitar, although I own a red and white Fender Stratocaster, because the strings hurt my fingers.  In one of my business ventures, my business partner and I owned a true Texas Honky Tonk.  Although I was half owner of the band, they only let me play when it was closing time and most of our patrons had left or needed to leave.

3.  When I graduated from high school my typing teacher told me to go to collage and go into something that did nottypist require typing.  Funny thing, I followed her advice, and ended up in the legal field. For nearly fourteen years as Legal Coordinator for our local hospital district and later being a paralegal  with a big law firm doing  mainly medical defense litigation.  I wonder today if Miss Shows challenged me with her statement or she truly didn’t think I could type well enough to hold down a job that required typing!

4.  I have been a Toastmaster.  The hardest courses I’ve ever taken were the ones that led me to be a Dale Carnegie graduate.

8-kids5.  I have eight grandkids.  Right now half of them are in college, with the oldest graduating this coming May and going into medical school.  I have three more who are taking classes in preparation for medical school.  One, who will go into college in the spring, plans on being a school teacher, which is the career I wanted to go into, plus we come from a long line of school teachers.  I’m proud of all of them.

6.  I think writers should walk-the-walk, which of course something isn’t possible.  My favorite spot is CentralOut of the Texas Night California (Santa Barbara County) where my oldest daughter and her family live.  I’ve written one single title book set in California and ending in Texas while I visited there.  Some of the same characters are in the single title I’m working on right now.  Out of a Texas Night is the second of the Kasota Springs Romance series.

circus-clown7.  I’m married to a authentic Ringling Brothers Barnum Baily clown.  I didn’t have time to reproduce the picture we have of Frosty the Clown doing Bob’s face for his performance, but I do have a picture of Frosty on one of the posters for the circus.  My DH always had a desire to be a clown, although it is truly the farthest thing from his true personality.  One of our dear friends was with an advertising agency for the circus and made his dream come true.

8.  One of my favorite things to do beside writing and being a Granny is to hand quilt. Now I don’t care about piecing but I love to hand stitch.  My motherquilting was wonderful at the lost art of quilting and my baby sister, Mary, quilts on the sewing machine.

acs9.  My favorite charity is the American Cancer Society.  I love Relay for Life events and since my California daughter began with the ACS before she even had children, we’ve been involved in many, many events all over the country.

10.  Now for the thing most people don’t know about me.  I’m a woman with two first names.  Phyliss Miranda.  But here’s the catch Phyliss isn’t truly my first name.  I came from the era that I never had to have my birth certificate filed with the State of Texas.  We got into school, higher education, married and had our own babies using the certificate issued from the hospital.  Mother always told me that my name was misspelled, although I was named after two of my aunts, Phyllis and Bobbie Rae.  We thought it was Phyllis that was spelled wrong, so we used Phyliss.  That was until I applied for my Passport and had to get the original.  Oops, it read Phyllis Rae Pannier.  So I’d gone around with the wrong name but it was too late to change.  The house, our checking accounts and all business records show Phyliss, not to mention my two daughter’s birth certificates.   So, much for presuming.   I knew my Aunt Bobbie was named after her father Robert thus Bobbie and Grannie’s brother Ray.  Recently, while going through old records I found a number of my aunt’s business papers and guess what?  Her middle name fluctuates between Rae and Ray with Ray being in the family Bible written in my grandmother’s hand.  So in reality, both my first and middle names are wrong!

Just as long as you call me for supper, I’ll answer to any of the names! But my favorite name of all is Mrs. Robert Miranda.

DRAWING FOR TWO WINNERS!

Now, how about a prize or two?  I’ll give two readers who leave a comment a e-copy of any of my books that are on Amazon at the moment.  If you’d prefer to have a signed copy of any one of the six anthologies by Sister Filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me, you can select that. Thanks for stopping by.

Updated: September 28, 2016 — 5:54 pm

Ten Fun Filly Facts about Kathryn!

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I feel like I need to have a name starting with F for this post!
Fun Filly Facts about Francine… hmm…

This week is dedicated to fun facts about the members that make up the corral
here at Wildflower Junction (a.k.a. Petticoats and Pistols) and today is my day!
I’m supposed to come up with 10 facts ~ we’ll see if I can…

FFF #1

~ I wrote my first manuscript with the hope that I could make enough money to stay home with my children as they grew. Call me naive to the publishing world! It didn’t happen, but now on the flip side of life, I have been able to retire early and be with my grandchildren and parents more.

FFF #2numbers

~ I prefer even numbers.
Not sure why…it just makes sense to me.
Maybe it was because I was born on an even day in an even month.
2014 was a good year. 2016 even more so.
(There might be a pill to correct this…or maybe therapy.)

FFF #3

Kathryn's Wedding Picture~ Although my first wedding was more exciting than my second, my second marriage has been more exciting than my first–and it’s to the same man!
Allow me to explain:  My first marriage at my grandparent’s farm lasted fifteen minutes ~ the duration of the drive from the farm to the church. I learned after the 1st ceremony, that the wedding wasn’t legal because the farm was just over the county line. The pastor had to take us back to his side of the line to say our “I Dos” all over again and sign the wedding certificate in the correct county. (It seems to have stuck — We’ve been married 38 years!) 

FFF #4

~ I love witty puns and quotes.
I think this may be a hazard of being a writer and loving the written word.

              “Borrow money from pessimists—they don’t expect it back.” (Steven Wright)
“If yourcar could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?” (Steven Wright)
“She’s descended from a long line her mother listened to. (Gypsy Rose Lee)
“Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.”

FFF #5horse-3

~ I wanted a horse when I was a child.
I still want a horse…
(Or a trip to a dude ranch might help :-))
I did enjoy riding lessons for two years as a youngster.
Even won a red ribbon (2nd place) in my one and only horse competition.

 FFF #6Cuyamaca Countryside

~ I grew up in the big city but always was a country gal at heart.
My favorite times were when my family left the city of San Diego and went hiking in the back country, to the beach, or on a summer vacation to a National Park. Give me the wide open spaces, an open road, and a starry sky and I am happiest.

FFF #720160927_140409_resized

~ I’m a dog person
—most particularly Golden Retrievers and Great Danes.
(I think this has something to do with never having my own horse.)
I’ve had three goldens that have come and gone in my life. The one pictured here was named Baron.
Every time I take a walk I think about and miss them.

FFF #8henry-cavill-superman-costume

~ I love everything SUPERMAN.
Mostly it has to do with his moral integrity, need to protect those weaker, and his strength.
It may have a small something to do with being able to fly. That is one cool super-power!
But then…he is easy on the eyes…

FFF #9

10914931_10153074190180135_517531118880944071_oIn my other life
I was a High Risk Obstetrical Nurse and a Sonographer.
That’s a lot of initials after my name…(I’m trying to beat my brothers…)
Now that I have left the medical field, I miss doing ultrasounds of babies in the womb.
I don’t miss having to get up everyday and leave for work.

FFF #10

I have my own “cheese cake” photo.  

Ready?  Here you go…

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Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little bit about me.
I’d love to hear a few fun facts about you! How about sharing one or two?

Comment to be entered into a drawing for one of my books!

10 Things You May Not Know About Me…Winnie Griggs

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Hello all, Winnie Griggs here. It’s my turn to share little known facts about who the ‘true Winnie Griggs’ is. So here goes:

  1. This may sound like heresy to some of you, but as a kid I just did not care for Nancy Drew – I only read the series when I was hard up for reading material and there was nothing else available. But I was a BIG fan of Trixie Belden, The Hardy Boys and dozens of other teen adventure/mystery series. I still own many of those old books.
    trixie
  2. The first real story I ever wrote from start to finish was of the fan fiction variety. I was about ten years old and it featured Roy Rogers and the gang from the old Saturday morning TV show. I guess Westerns were in my blood even then.
    roy-rogerrs
  3. Among the other very special things about me is that I have two middle names. That’s right, I am officially Winnie Mae Marie.
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  4. I’m one of those odd ducks who really enjoys math and puzzles. In fact, that was my major in college. I got a BS in Mathematics, with minors in Computer Science and Accounting – how much geeekier can you get!
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  5. I am the oldest of five siblings- my sisters and brother hint (strongly) that this makes me bossy. I prefer to think of myself as confident.
    As a side note, my youngest sister is 20 years younger than me – I got the news my mother was pregnant at the end of my sophomore year of college – how’s that for a shocker! My boyfriend was with me when my dad told me. That boyfriend is now my husband so I guess it didn’t scare him off.
    wow
  6. One of my younger sisters got married before I did, so, true to tradition, I danced barefoot at her wedding.
    barefoot
  7. And speaking of dancing, I absolutely LOVE to dance, it’s hard for me to be still when there is music playing. Unfortunately I’m totally uncoordinated and I’m not a pretty sight on the dance floor.
    dancer
  8. I almost didn’t attend the college where I eventually ended up. I’ve always been a homebody so I had picked out two universities that were within a two hour drive of home. When I went in to take my ACT test, howeverr, there was a place on the test form that asks you to list 3 colleges you’re considering. I listed the two I wanted, but I’m a bit OCD about forms and couldn’t leave the last spot blank. So I remembered that just that morning, my best friend had casually mentioned a college she was looking into that was nearly 400 miles away, so I quickly added that one to the form and promptly forgot all about it. Until a month later when the admissions department contacted me and offered me a full ride scholarship based on my score. It’s kind of scary and awesome how my whole life changed direction based on that one off hand incident. Because that college is where I met the man who would eventually become my husband.
    college
  9. And speaking of meant-to-be, I’d always dreamed of having three kids – it just seemed the ideal family size to me. But apparently the Good Lord had other plans for me. My last pregnancy resulted in twins! Now I have four grown, remarkable, wonderful children whom I wouldn’t change for the world.
    kids
  10. Summer before last we took a family vacation to Hawaii, where I not only had a fabulous time but I got to check something off my bucket list. My husband and I took a ride around the island in a helicopter. I loved it – very exhilarating and the views were breathtaking!
    helicopter

So now you know more than you ever wanted to know about who I am. Is there anything on this list you can relate to? And how about you reciprocate by sharing one or two fun facts about yourself? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist. Drawing will take place sometime tomorrow.

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In Search of a Groom 

After a life of drudgery on her family’s farm, Cassie Lynn Vickers relishes her freedom working in town as a paid companion for feisty Mrs. Flanagan. When her father suddenly demands she come home, she has no choice. Unless she can find a husband. If only she could convince handsome town newcomer Riley Walker to marry her… 

Riley is on the run. He’s desperate to keep his niece and nephew safe from his crooked half brother. But a delay in Turnabout, Texas, shows him everything he didn’t know he was missing: home, family—and Cassie Lynn. Can he find a way to become her Prince Charming…and build a real family with the children and Cassie Lynn?

Updated: September 26, 2016 — 8:59 am

Susan Page Davis and the Oregon Trail!

susan-2Susan Page Davis here. History is all about people—individuals. I’ve encountered some intriguing people in my research and the Oregon pioneers are a good example.

Thousands of people went to Oregon in the 1850s, and those pioneers have always fascinated me. When I got married and moved to Oregon with my husband, who grew up there, I was very conscious of retracing the steps of those who blazed the western trails. When it came time to write my Prairie Dreams series, I needed to present Oregon’s history accurately, and I found I had a lot to learn!

In these books, starting with The Lady’s Maid, I sent two English ladies over the Oregon Trail on a wagon train. They don’t actually reach the territory until the end of the first book. In writing the section where the wagon train winds along the Snake River for a ways, I began my Oregon research in earnest.

For that first book in the series, I mainly studied the trail itself, and places along the way. It was in very rough shape when my ladies arrived in 1855. I’ve been to the End of the Trail Museum in Oregon City, and to the Oregon Trail Museum near Baker City, on the Idaho side of the state—both wonderful resources with very different collections. I’ve seen the ruts on the prairie and peered into Conestoga wagons. All of that was percolating in the back of my mind, and I was able to find the additional information I needed.
Copyright Historic Oregon City www.historicoregoncity.org

Copyright Historic Oregon City http://www.historicoregoncity.org[/caption%5D

Fort Dalles was one place I used in my books. My brother-in-law lives in The Dalles, and on one visit, he took us to see what is left of the fort. It isn’t much. The surgeon’s house is wonderful, but there is precious little left of the actual military installation. I had to rely on books and Internet sites to bring the fort to life for me. Oregon City was easier, because it’s still there, and many sources exist to tell me about what it was like in “the day.”

In the second book of my series, Lady Anne’s Quest, real historical figures began to show up. Some of them screamed to be included in my story. My two fictional ladies had separated. Elise had married a scout turned rancher, and Lady Anne went on to find her missing uncle. His last known address was near Eugene.

I had a lot of fun researching the Eugene area. It’s where my husband was born. He grew up in Junction City, just a few susan-5miles outside Eugene, and we lived within the city limits after we got married. But Junction City wasn’t there in 1855.

What I did find in my time travel was fascinating people. One was Eugene Skinner, larger than life. He was the founder of the city, and it is named after him. I was also familiar with Skinner’s Butte, which towers over the city and where Eugene Skinner lived for a while. In his active life, he was not only a founder, a farmer, and a ferry operator, but he helped lay out the town and served as a lawyer, postmaster, and county clerk.

One of the first settlers in Lane County, Skinner arrived in 1846. He built the first cabin in what is now the city of Eugene, on the side of the

hill at Skinner’s Butte. He used it as a trading post, and later as a post office. I put the post office and both Mr. and Mrs. Skinner in my story.susan-6

I also learned about Joseph Lafayette Meek, or “Joe Meek,” the famous mountain man. He lived his later years in Oregon and was appointed the first U.S. Marshal for the Oregon Territory.susan

I needed a marshal in my story, but by the time of the tale, Joe had given up the office. He served as Territorial Marshal from 1848 to 1853, and was succeeded by James Nesmith, so Marshal Nesmith is the one who made it into my book. Even so, I enjoyed a rabbit trail of reading about Joe Meek and his family. Maybe he will show up in another book someday.  susan-4

I am making a list of Oregon places I’d like to visit the next time we go there to see family. It’s amazing how many historical sites I managed NOT to visit during the time I lived in the beautiful state of Oregon! Usually those places are associated with people. While I do delve into the plants, animals, and terrain of the regions I write about, most of my research is still about people.

Today I’m giving away a copy of A Lady in the Making from the Prairie Dreams series.susan-3

 

 

A Lady in the Making: Millie Evans boards a stagecoach and finds that one of the passengers is David Stone—a man she and her brother once tried to swindle. As she tries to convince David she’s different now, her brother’s gang holds up the stagecoach. Millie must trust God to show David the truth that she has changed, but will he see before it’s too late?

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than 60 novels, including the Ladies’ Shooting Club series, Texas Trails series, and Frasier Island Series. Her newest books include the historical romances River Rest, Mountain Christmas Brides, The 12 Brides of Summer, and Heart of a Cowboy. She now lives in western Kentucky. Visit her website at: http://www.susanpagedavis.com

 

Ortega Adobe

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetIn my last blog I wrote about the Mission La Purisima on the Camino Real in California.  I promised to write more about it and some personal things that have happened in the ol’ haunted mission.  Before I publish, what I think is an intriguing finish to my personal story about the La Purisima, I wanted to explore some more places along the King’s Highway that I’ve visited or became intrigued with.Ortega Taco Pix

I’m gonna bet if you make any Tex-Mex or even Mexican dishes you’ve used Ortega brand products.  Here’s my story about Ortega Adobe, Ortega Chili Company, and a mysterious little girl.

Ortega Old Pix use

The picture to the left is one of the middle class adobe homes and also one of the last houses of its type still standing in California.  Built in 1857 by local rancher Emedigio Ortega, he raised nine of his children.

In 1897, one of his sons began the Ortega Chili Company that exists today.  Obviously, the international company has outgrown the small three room house.

The building has been used as a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese laundry, a pottery shop, an employment agency, a VFW hall, a speakeasy, the Ventura police state, and lastly, a boy’s and girl’s club.  In the 1960’s it became an historic museum.  The tiles on the roof were purchasedOrtega Old Pix from the Old Mission San Buenaventura after the earthquake of 1857.

Now for the more interesting part of this mission, as I promised.

Supernatural events have become a part of the adobe museum’s crew’s jobs. Staff have caught a glimpse of a man with a derby hat standing on the porch. A visitor who believes she has a psychic gift saw a ghostly little girl in the house standing in the doorway. She had a dark shawl over her head. The house also has a very cold spot in the largest of the rooms where some have heard voices! The story of soft music emanating from a phantom guitar remind us of the history and many different lives that have passed through this house and of some spirits that may have chosen to stick around.

The Ortega Adobe isn’t a mission but I found its story very interesting.  I love going to California and this year, as many of you all know, I spent over two months in central California in order to celebrate graduation and birthdays for my grandchildren.  I’m eager to write more about my adventures.

Earlier this month when I wrote about the Mission La Pursima, which you haven’t heard the last of, I received a lot of wonderful comments on missions, so I’ll ask you the same question … please share with us any of your experiences on missions, the Camino Real, and ghosts.

The Troubled Texan GoodTo one lucky reader who comments, I’ll give you a choice of one of my eBook’s, including any anthology I’m in or one of my short stories. I’m looking forward to reading all of your comments.

Updated: August 29, 2016 — 6:53 pm

Mission La Purisima Concepcion

Phyliss sig horse and sunsetI spent two months in one of my favorite places in the United States … Central California where the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) runs right through town. Of course, it happens to be my oldest daughter’s, son-in-law’s and grandkid’s home and I went out for graduation and birthdays. It‘s not only a beautiful part of the world, but it is also the home of one of my favorite missions on the El Camino Real (King’s Highway) … Mission La Purisima Concepcion.
Although it was founded in December of 1787 and is located a little distance from the El Camino Real, it’s in my kid’s back yard, literally. As a matter of fact, all of my grandchildren who went to school there actually could walk to the Mission from their school yards. It’s a wonderful and exciting place in history. I hope when you are finished reading my blog you’ll see why I’d love to write an historical romance on the twenty-one Spanish missions running along the King’s Highway.

I’m going to give you a thirty-second overview of the missions as a whole, and particularly La Purisima.Mission 1 mission soldiers quarters mission 2
The Spanish missions comprise of a series of religious outposts established by Spanish Franciscans between 1769 and 1823. The missions gave Spain a valuable toehold in the new frontier along the West Coast and also represented the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the area. I found this of interest, King Charles of Spain issued laws pertaining to the expansion.

The American Indian would be permitted to live in communities of their own.
Indians should be able to choose their own leaders.
No Indian was to be held slave.
No Indian was to live outside his own village.
No Spaniard was to stay in the Indian village for more than three days.
Indians were to be instructed in the Catholic faith.

Each mission was under the direction of two resident Padres, assisted by a small contingent of soldiers. In La Purisima’s case, the Chumash Indians, Padres, and soldiers occupied the Mission concurrently and each respected one another’s position. The Chumash were taught many skills from construction of adobe buildings to herding livestock, growing crops and weaving. Other missions provided much of the seeds and stock; therefore, the mission flourished.

The first Mission La Purisima was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake, and the mission was moved to its present location. Then the mission period ended, the building were abandoned and fell in disrepair. The buildings and the land left behind were sold at public auction in 1845 for $1,110. In 1874, the United States returned the land to the Catholic Church but the buildings were in such bad condition that the church sold the land, and it was obtained by the State of California.

Restoration began in 1935 and today La Purisima is a State Historic Park where volunteers demonstrate what mission life was like in the early 1800’s.
Now you all, especially the writers, should see the elements of an historical romance developing in my mind. But something else developed during my trip that gives me more reason to continue to research this particular mission. I‘ll tell you about it on my next blog later this month on August 30th.

Have any of you visited a mission and what did you come away with in the way of feelings and thoughts?

Updated: August 1, 2016 — 8:51 pm

Good To Be Home, Even If I Can’t Charge My Phone

Our houseHey everyone and happy Wednesday! When I got back from the Romance Writers of America National conference one week ago today, I was greeted by a house with no electricity or water, and a slightly stressed out husband. He also had to replace the refrigerator while I was gone. I was kind of getting afraid to answer the phone while I was in San Diego.

I had a book due shortly after returning home, but with no electricity, finishing it proved to be a problem. Fortunately, I had a neighbor whose power sources were still running, so I’d meet him at the end of my driveway on his way home from work, hand off my laptop, he would take it home and charge it and then we’d meet at the end of the driveway when he headed back to work the next morning. I was so glad to have a fifteen hour battery.

Life off the grid can be a challenge, but my power source is up and running again, and I’m writing away. To celebrate, I’m posting an excerpt from my September Harlequin Western Romance (formerly Harlequin American Romance), The Bull Rider’s Homecoming.

My bull rider hero is babysitting the heroine’s twin daughters during an emergency. He’s never been around kids and is learning the ropes as he goes. I hope you enjoy.

“Now what?”

Well, he certainly couldn’t leave the macaroni cooking and go home. “What do you guys…girls…usually do while waiting for supper to cook?”

“We do our schoolwork.”

“Or watch TV.”

“Or play on the computer.”

Or play dolls.”

Katie’s face brightened. “Yeah. You can be the boy dolls!”

“I…”

But Kristen was already on her way out of the room, Katie close behind her. A moment later they came back carrying a box of dolls and small clothing.

Trace pushed the hair back from his forehead. This was foreign territory.

Katie set three fashion dolls in various states of dress on the table then looked up at Trace. “Who do you want to be?”

“Uh…where’s that guy doll you were talking about?”

Kristen dug into the bin and pulled out two identical boy dolls—one wearing striped pajamas and the other wearing jeans and a white shirt with an aluminum foil buckle on his small belt. “This is Tyler and this is Jess. They’re twins. Like us.”

Trace knew Tyler and Jess Hayward, the bull-riding twins. He wondered if they knew they had tiny doppelgangers.

“We don’t have many boy clothes,” Katie said.

“And they don’t fit in the girl jeans, so Tyler has to wear his pajamas.”

“Or his beach shorts.” Katie pulled out a pair of flowered swim trunks.

Trace picked up Tyler. “So, what’s my job?”

“We have to get the horses and then we play rodeo.”

Not what he’d been expecting.

“Uncle Grady got us a bull, too, so Tyler and Jess can ride the bull.”

“In his pajamas?” Trace asked.

“Well, he has to wear something,” Katie remarked in a grown-up tone as she headed out of the room. She reappeared a few minutes later with a crate of horses and sure enough, there was a Brahma bull in with the plastic model horses.

“I’ll get the cans,” Kristen said.

“Cans?”

“For barrel racing,” Katie said as if he was slow on the uptake.

And so Trace got down on the floor and played rodeo with the girls. Tyler did very well riding the bull, but Jess got tossed off and landed in the sink of soapy water with a big splash, much to the girls’ delight.

“Mom never lets us do that.”

“Mom…” He almost said “doesn’t need to know” before he realized that was not a very wise thing to say to two impressionable seven-year-olds. “Mom knows best,” he amended.

He got to his feet and fished Jess out of the sink and left him to dry on the drain rack before sitting back down again. Out of curiosity, he asked, “Do you guys ever play anything but rodeo?”

“Sometimes we play school and sometimes we play going-on-a-date, but mostly we play rodeo.”

“You can go on a date to a rodeo,” Kristen announced. “That’s where Uncle Grady and Lex went on their first date.”

“We went, too!” Katie added.

“That must have been some first date.”

“It was,” Kristen said, suddenly solemn. “Lex got scared and sad because her dad died at a rodeo, but Uncle Grady helped her get not afraid.”

“And now they’re getting married,” Katie interjected.

“We’re flower girls!”

The Bull Rider’s Homecoming is available for pre-order from Amazon. Thanks for stopping by!

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