Category: Reading

A Life-Long Love of Westerns

Howdy, everyone! I’m happy to be joining the Petticoats & Pistols as the newest member today, partly because it’s always nice to hang out with other writers and readers but also because of the focus on westerns. You see, I’ve loved westerns for as long as I can remember. I recently had to answer a questionnaire for my publisher, and one of the questions was why I liked cowboy stories. I had to sit and think about it because it was just something that had always been true. As I was growing up in rural western Kentucky, we only had three TV channels and had to go outside to physically turn the antennae if the reception was bad. I distinctly remember that old movies played on Saturday afternoons, and a lot of those were westerns. When I think back on them now, I can identify why they attracted me and why I still love western-set TV shows, movies and books.

  • The landscape was so wide open with impossibly wide skies and a rugged type of beauty. This was completely different than the wooded, rolling hills where I grew up. At that point in my life, I’d barely been out of the state with brief trips a few miles down the road and across the river into Illinois and a Girl Scout trip to Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn., both of which looked pretty much like Kentucky. So those western landscapes, even if some of them were created on Hollywood lots, were like a different planet that I longed to visit.
  • Even though it was romanticized and still is to some extent, cowboys were iconic American heroes. They could live off the land, were honest (at least if they were wearing a white or light-colored hat), chivalrous, and a force for good. Even back then in the 1970s and ’80s, I knew that things were rarely that black and white in real life. Reality was more complicated and filled with shades of gray.
  • I love stories set in the past. I haven’t met a costume drama I didn’t love, and westerns — at least for me — fall into that category. It’s a bit like being a time-traveler and being transported to a different time and place, but you don’t have to worry about the lack of hygiene or modern medicine.
  • While I love my modern conveniences, I for some reason have always loved stories about survival and living off the land. When I think about people who set off in wagon trains west, not knowing if they’d make it or if they’d ever seen friends and family again, I’m awed by how much courage that took. Kind of like people who boarded ships in England and sailed for America. Even though modern-day cowboys and ranchers have the modern conveniences the rest of us do, they are still men of the land and work out under those wide-open skies.

While I write contemporary romance, many of which have cowboys as heroes, I still have a great love for western historicals. These were the first romances I read back in high school and continued to read in the years that followed — stories by Lorraine Heath, Kathleen Eagle, Elizabeth Grayson, among others. My first manuscript was even a historical set along the Oregon Trail, inspired partly because of that old video game called Oregon Trail. A friend even got me a shirt once that said, “You have died of dysentery,” which is a familiar phrase to anyone who played the game.

If a new movie comes out that is a western, I do my best to go see it in the theater so they’ll continue to make more. If there’s a western-themed TV series, I’m parked in front of the small screen. My all-time favorite show, Firefly, actually is a mixture of western and my other favorite genre, sci-fi. Yes, space western, and it was awesome!

In the months ahead, I look forward to blogging about various western-themed topics — my trips across the American West, my love for western-themed decor, rodeo, etc. And I look forward to interacting with the readers of Petticoats & Pistols.

Updated: January 23, 2017 — 1:26 am

The Outlaw Kathleen Rice Adams Confesses

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Why do so many women named Kathleen become romance authors? They’re everywhere.

Filly Fun 2016Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Kathleen Kane, Kathleen O’Brien, Kathleen Baldwin, Kathleen Eagle, Kathleen Kellow, Kathleen Maxwell, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Kathleen Ball, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Kathleen Winsor… They’re all somewhat celebrated, and some are still writing today.

Then there’s that other Kathleen—the one who finds humor in the most inappropriate places at the worst possible times. The Kathleen whose wardrobe consists primarily of egg on her face and the taste of shoe leather on her tongue. The Kathleen who encourages fictional characters to cuss and steal and murder and commit all manner of other dastardly deeds because they can get away with it and she can’t.

The troublemaking one. The one who reveres sarcasm as high art. The one who should be rich and famous by now if for no other reason than name association.

The Hideout

My current hideout. Forget you saw it.

To tell you the truth, I find it more satisfying to be poor and infamous—which is a good thing, since I’m a pro at both pursuits.

Here are a few more truths:

1)  I’m the eldest of four siblings: two girls and two boys. (Yes, four middle-aged hooligans with similar DNA remain at large. Be afraid.) Three of us are overachievers: My sister is a retired judge, the eldest of the boys is literally a rocket scientist, and the baby of the family is a computer systems engineer. And then there’s me.

2) My sister, brothers, and I played cowboys and Indians a lot when we were kids. I was always the outlaw. Why no one saw that as a warning remains a mystery.

3) I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the ripe old age of 22. No, I was not mustered out on a Section 8, although that would’ve surprised no one.

4) I still have my wisdom teeth, my appendix, and my tonsils. My mind, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen in years.

Hole in the Web Gang

The Hole in the Web Gang, clockwise from top left: Dog, age 12; Underdog, 7; Little Ol’ Biddy, 15; Mr. Ed, 4.

5) As a journalist, I’ve worked the scene of a major airline disaster, covered political scandals, written columns about poltergeist-infested commodes and human kindness, won awards…and found myself staring at the wrong end of a gun—twice. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be ventilated. (A more astute individual might have realized it’s unwise to antagonize crazy people.)

6) My author bio says I come from “a long line of ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and horse thieves and moonshiners on the other.” I did not make any of that up. Some of my relatives still ranch, preach, and teach. The horse thieves and moonshiners found other lines of work.

7) My paternal grandmother’s mother was American Indian. Grandma never knew what tribe; consequently, neither do I. In the late 1800s, Kentucky hillbillies considered marrying an Indian shameful, so no one talked about great-grandma’s heritage. My grandmother never met her mother’s relatives. (My dad, who as a child helped his father run moonshine, was the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. He referred to himself as a “hillwilliam.”)

Peaches by Kathleen Rice Adams8) My short story “Peaches” was based on my maternal grandparents’ courtship. Granny, a young widow who taught in a one-room Texas schoolhouse and had her hands full with three rowdy boys, took a peach pie to a church social. The man who was to become my grandfather, a bachelor rancher in his 50s, won the accidentally over-seasoned pie at auction. He nearly choked to death on the first bite. His response? “I s’pose I ought to marry that little woman ‘fore she kills somebody.”

9) My house celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Compared to some of the other homes on Galveston Island, it’s a youg’un. The Capt. H.H. Hadley House (yes, it has a name) was completed in August 1915…two weeks before a deadly Category 4 hurricane struck. More than three dozen big blows later, it’s still standing.

The Dumont Brand by Kathleen Rice Adams10) Four Chihuahuas ranging in age from four to fifteen live in this house. Whatever they’ve told you about the intractability of their servant, don’t believe them. If they didn’t want to be deviled by a spoiled-rotten delinquent, they shouldn’t have rescued me.

There. Now you know all of my deep, dark secrets. Before you decide to pursue blackmail, read “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

To compensate for the loss of financial opportunity, I’ll give away a copy of The Dumont Brand, which contains the first two stories in a series about a Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons in its closets than there are in a graveyard. “The Trouble with Honey,” a new story in the series, will be published this summer.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment revealing something about you. Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun! Your life can’t be any more embarrassing than mine.  😉

 

Harper Lee

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetHarper Lee, the elusive novelist who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that was writtenHarper Lee from a child’s-eye whose view reflected racial prejudices in a small Southern town recently died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 89, in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Although I read a dozen articles about her death, they were about the same through the eyes of the Associated Press.  The information that I found the most intriguing was in her biography.

One thing of interest was that her full name was Nelle Harper Lee.  Her first name was her grandmother’s name spelled backwards.  Lee dropped the Nelle because she didn’t want people to mispronounce it.  Her father was a lawyer, a member of the Alabama state legislature and part owner of the local newspaper.  For most of Lee’s life, her mother suffered from mental illness and rarely left the house.  It was believed that she may have had bipolar disorder.

Although Lee was the youngest of four children, she was scrappy as any of her brothers. Not to mention she was brilliant.

One of her best friends, and who as authors today we’d call a critique partner, was Truman Capote, then known as Truman Persons. Lee often stepped up to serve as Truman’s protector.  Truman, who shared few interest with boys his age, was picked on for being sensitive and for the fancy clothes he wore.  While the two friends were very different, they both had difficult homes lives.  Truman lived with his mother’s relative after largely being abandoned by his own parents.

“The world knows Harper Lee was a brilliant writer but what many don’t know is that she was an extraordinary woman of great joyfulness, humility and kindness. She lived her life the way she wanted to– in private – surrounded by books and the people who loved her,” Michael Morrison, head of HarperCollins U.S. general books group, said.

Gregory PeckTo Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, a little over a half a century ago, quickly became a best-seller, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a memorable movie in 1962, with Gregory Peck winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus, plus the movie winning three Oscars. As the civil rights movement grew, the novel inspired a generation of young lawyers.

By 2015, its sales were reported to be more than 40 million worldwide, making it one of the most widely read American novels of the 20th century. When the Library of Congress did a survey in 1991 on books that have affected people’s lives, I was second only to the Bible.

Lee herself became more mysterious as her book became more famous. At first, she dutifully promoted her work. She spoke frequently to the press, wrote about herself and gave speeches..

But she began declining interviews in the late 1960s and, until late in her life, firmly avoided making any public comment at all about her novel or her career. Other than a few magazine pieces for Vogue and McCall’s in the 1960s and a review of a 19th-century Alabama history book in 1983, she published no other book until stunning the world in 2015 by permitting Go Set a Watchman to be released.

”Watchman” was written before “Mockingbird” but was set 20 years later, using the same Harper Lee Both Bookslocation and many of the same characters. Readers and reviewers were disheartened to find an Atticus who seemed nothing like the hero of the earlier book. But despite unenthusiastic reviews and questions whether Lee was well enough to approve the publication, “Watchman” jumped to the top of best-seller lists within a day of its announcement and remained there for months.

Much of Lee’s story is the story of “Mockingbird,” and how she responded to it. She wasn’t a bragger or a drinker like many authors of her time. She was not a recluse or eccentric. By the accounts of friends and Monroeville townsfolk, she was a warm, vibrant and witty woman who enjoyed life, played golf, read voraciously and enjoyed plays and concerts. She just didn’t want to talk about it before an audience.

One of the most interesting things I found about her life really doesn’t differ a great deal from today’s readers.  Although eventually To Kill a Mockingbird was released as an e-Book, she wasn’t all that pleased with the decision.  In her words, like many of ours, she said, “I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long ….”

As most students who grew up in my era, To Kill a Mockingbird was required school reading.  However, I read mostly Granny’s True Confession mags she hid under the bed in the room I stayed in every weekend, plus of course, required class reading.

When I got older, the first real romance novel I read and it’ll always be my favorite is The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  After I got caught up on her older books, I turned to LaVyrle Spencer. There are so many to choose from but my favorite of all is The Hellion and later Hummingbird.  For me, as I remember, The Hellion, was the first truly bad-boy hero I’d ever read.  Just writing about it today makes me want to find my copy and read it again, but since I’ve got to get the second book in the Kasota Springs series finished for Kensington, I guess I’d best save the reading of The Hellion and The Flame and the Flower until it’s winter and I can curl up with hot tea in front of the fireplace and read.

My question to you all … what is the book you literally “cut your teeth on” when you began reading historical romances?

Being the first day of March, I can truly smell all the freshness of spring here in Texas.  To one lucky winner I will give you an e-Book of the first book in the Kasota Springs series, The Troubled Texan.

The Troubled Texan GoodValentines Short Story, Harper Lee, and Linda's books at BN

This was a fun shot at Barnes and Nobles and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Filly Linda Broday’s Texas Mail Order Bride, and the Valentine’s short story collection from Prairie Rose Publications, Hearts and Spurs which features P&P Fillies Linda Broday, Tracy Garrett, Cheryl Pierson, Kathleen Rice Adams, Tanya Hansen, and Phyliss Miranda.

Updated: February 29, 2016 — 8:19 pm

New Release and Giveaway!!!

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With This Ring bethany house

Click cover to order.

It’s always so exciting when a new book comes out, but I’ve been chomping at the bit to get this one into the hands of readers ever since A Worthy Pursuit came out last June. My latest project, a novella titled The Husband Maneuver (from the collection With This Ring?), is finally here! I’ve been dying to share Daniel Barrett (aka Dead-Eye Dan) and Marietta Hawkins’s story with you.

Dead-Eye Dan is a dime novel hero inspired by the exploits of Daniel Barrett during his bounty hunting days, but Dan gave up that life to be an ordinary mule trainer. Only, the dratted dime novels keep glorifying his past and making it impossible to escape. He’s been in love with his boss’s daughter for two years, but his promise not to make advances while in Jonah Hawkins’s employ has kept him silent about how he feels. That and the fact that he worries Etta couldn’t love an ordinary mule trainer if her head was full of dime novel nonsense.

Marietta loves the man, not the legend, but when Dan decides to leave her father’s ranch for good in order to start his own spread, she panics, fearing she’s about to lose him forever. She takes drastic measures to convince him of her wifely suitability, but when a deadly hailstorm hits the ranch, will her dreams shatter like broken window glass?

With all the dime novel aspects in this novella, I wanted to work in actual scenes from a Dead-Eye Dan novel. Those scenes ended up being my favorite sections to write. I start each chapter with a Dead-Eye Dan excerpt, so the reader gets to enjoy two stories in one!

I thought I would share one of the Dead-Eye Dan excerpts with you. Enjoy the over-the-top sensationalist dime novel style.

The cover for the e-single version that will be available in May.

The cover for the e-single version that will be available in May.

Dead-Eye Dan climbed the tall oak with the skill of a cougar. Jaw tight, he scaled the tree hand-over-hand, his gaze locked on the v-shaped branch above his head. He had one chance to slow his prey. One chance to gain the upper hand. He wouldn’t squander it.

When he reached the branch he sought, Dan positioned himself in the cradle, bracing his legs against the sturdy trunk. In a single, smooth motion, he slid his Remington long range rifle from the custom holster on his back and lifted the Vernier peep sight into position with a flick of his thumb. The walnut stock fit against his shoulder as if it were an extension of his body.

Dan leaned forward and rested the barrel against the branch in front of him, notching it against a broken twig’s stub to keep it steady. He located his target. Four horses, 750 yards ahead. Four thieves and a woman. His woman. Taken when the desperadoes left the bank. They thought to use her as a shield to keep him at bay. A fatal error. The moment they touched Mary Ellen Watkins, they’d signed their death warrants.

–from Dead-Eye Dan and the Outlaws of Devil’s Canyon

  • Who are your favorite over-the-top cowboy heroes? From TV, movies, books – there are plenty to choose from.
  • I’m giving away 2 copies of With This Ring? today. Leave a comment to enter.

Guest Michael K. Reynolds: Romancing the West!

There is tremendous irony in how popular the Western genre of Historical Romance is with today’s readers.

After all, life in the Western United States in the late 19th century was hardly the stuff romantic dreams were made of.

Sweaty saddles, dusty bedrolls, boll weevils in the breakfast bowl, horse flies feasting on your neck and only the most rudimentary levels of sanitation. Not exactly Harry Met Sally.

painting- New York Harbor about 1855 Fitz Henry Lane,American American, 1804–1865And during the Gold Rush era, romance was barely mathematically possible as there was a severe shortage of ladies in the bustling, burgeoning Barbary Coast area. The fairer sex were even scarcer in the desolate hills of the Gold Country and the few women who did reside in the region were…uh um…mostly of the working variety.

So why is it that historical novelists such as myself and well informed readers…like you…cling so tightly to the notion there is romance in the air of those Western Skies?

For me, there always was something undeniably, absolutely captivating about the wide open spaces of the West. In fact, in writing In Golden Splendor, the second novel of my Heirs of Ireland series, I discovered the landscapes themselves became a central character in the book.

They became inseparably entwined in the courtship of the story. Here are some examples:

The Emptiness

Any good romance starts with our leading lady or man with a yearning in their heart, a sense of aloneness. The great expanses of the unexplored wilderness of the West naturally provoke emotions of deep yearning, always a key to a great romance.

Even at a distance, the ribs of the great beast showed through its patchy and scarred chestnut fur. Through the barrel’s eye, Seamus tracked the young bull as it limped its way over to an aspen tree. The elk raised its head, crowned in mockery by horns uneven and fractured.

Did it catch his scent?

Then the animal relaxed, bared its teeth, and tugged on a low-lying branch, releasing a powdery mist of fresh snowfall and uncovering autumnal leaves of maroon, amber and burnt orange. Brilliant watercolor splashes on a white canvas.

In the deadly stillness of a finger pointed on a trigger, Seamus shared a kinship of loneliness and futility with his prey, whose ear flapped and jaw bulged as it chewed.

The Grandeur

FlightOfTheEarlsWhat is romance without beauty, whether it is expressed through a perfectly sculpted face or experienced in the depths of a pure heart? When it comes to landscapes of the American West there are few areas on our planet that offer as seductive a setting for an epic journey of the soul.

Can you imagine being the first to capture sights of Yosemite? Long before there were roads and campgrounds?

There spinning beneath them, breathlessly and seemingly miles below, was a valley finely tailored in a stunning cloak of white and generously covered with snow-flocked forestry. It lay at the base of a symphony of granite that reached like grateful hands up to the heavens. Tears of adoration poured freely from great waterfalls that descended with fullness, despite the lateness of the season. Behind this all, the sun lowered its head beneath the distant edge of the crucible, pouring into the sky cottony plumes of pink, rose, and rusted orange.

The Struggle

Just as the thorn to the rose, the territory of the West can prove to be the perfect villain in the story, an antagonist who challenges our heroes to the core of their being:

Now also coming into clarity was the gruesome evidence of the trail’s savagery. Lining either side of the pathway were the tragic debris of failed crossings. Sun-blanched rib cages and scattered bones of oxen, horses, mules, as well as broken wagon frames and wheels with missing spokes. Even more haunting were the discarded dolls and toys and even cribs, a reminder of how death dealt no better hands to the young.

The Ephemeral Moods

This scenery of the West as well can prove to be a treasured palette for authors, allowing us to shift emotion and moods of a story.

The harbor fog drifted in as they weaved between the ghost ships, amidst the lofting smells of dead fish, rotting wood, and mildew. The waves splashing against the hulls and moans of bending timber and strained ropes added to the eeriness of the evening. The farther they were from the shoreline, the more desolate and forbidden became this naval graveyard.

Characters of Strength

SongsOfTheShenandoahBut the rich scenery is far from the only tool of the Western-themed novelist. Also in romancing the West a writer can tap into the deep complexity and intrigue of those who would respond to such a Manifest Destiny in their lives.

What great romance awaits such complex characters!

Which is why in the blending of all of this mostly male humanity, the woman who approached appeared so extraordinary and so out of place. She was dark enough in skin color to be Mexican, but her facial features were European, with high cheeks and taut skin. Her hair flowed freely, brown and straight and nearly all the way to her glistening silver belt buckle. She glanced at Seamus with playful and alluring eyes.

Yet rather than being dressed in the bright, ornamental dresses off the painted ladies in town, she was dressed more as a man, with leather leggings, a red plaid shirt, spurred boots, and a black flat-brimmed hat. Most notably, she swayed with confidence and strength.

The Pen is Yours

What about you? What do you think makes the American West such a perfect accompaniment for romance?

One of the commenters who answers Michael’s question will win an autographed copy of his or her choice from the Heirs of Ireland series: Flight of the Earls, In Golden Splendor, or Songs of the Shenandoah. Click on the book covers above to find out more about each book. The winner will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 23).

 

MichaelKReynolds_GoldABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael K. Reynolds’s debut novel, Flight of the Earls, about the Great Irish Potato Famine was a finalist for RT Book Reviews 2013 novel of the year award in the category of Inspirational Romance. In Golden Splendor, set during the San Francisco Gold Rush, earned fourth place as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2013 and Songs of the Shenandoah, the Civil War-era conclusion to the trilogy was a Top Pick in RT Book Reviews, as well as a finalist for RT’s Book Reviews Book of the Year and was the Gold Award Winner as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2014.

You can learn more about Michael at MichaelKReynolds.com. Find all of his books on his Amazon author page.

 

Dime Novels – The birth of the paperback

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Dime Novel - MalaeskaRight around the start of the Civil War, Erastus and Irwin Beadle published a new series of cheap paperbacks entitled Beadle’s Dime Novels. Thanks to increased literacy rates among the American people during this time, and the inexpensive price (yes, they truly did cost a dime), these thin, paper-bound books met with huge success. The debut novel – Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann Stephens (a woman – hooray!) sold more than 65,000 copies within the first few months of its publication. Those are the kind of numbers even today’s authors would get excited about – believe me! The book released on June 9, 1860 and was basically a reprint of a serialized story that had appeared in the Ladies’ Companion magazine back in 1839.

Dime novels varied in size and thickness, but the tended to be about 100 pages in length, about the equivalent to today’s novella. At first, dime novel covers had no cover art beyond the fancy title script. But it didn’t take long for the Beadles to move to illustrated covers, better designed to grab a browsing customer’s attention.

If you saw a homicidal squaw about to tomahawk a frontiersman, wouldn’t that grab your attention?  The next one is slightly less blatant with the rifleman helping a young woman escape danger, but there is certainly still an element of adventure and the breathless question of “What will happen next?”

Dime novels were famous for lurid, often melodramatic tales of the frontier. Heroes were larger than life and typically had exaggerated strength and skill. Not that the readers cared. The more jaw-dropping the story, the more fun it was to read. Hence the birth of genre paperback fiction.

In my latest release, A Worthy Pursuit, I have a lot of fun playing with these dime novel ideals. Young Lily is an avid, and rather bloodthirsty, fan of dime novels – her favorites being the tales of Dead-Eye Dan and his winsome companion Hammer Rockwell, who just happens to bear a striking similarity to Stone Hammond, our hero.

Here’s a sneak peak from one of the scenes where Stone and Lily are reading dime novels together:

Taking Dead-Eye Dan in hand, Stone fanned the pages to a random spot in the middle. “‘Dan dove behind a fallen tree as a hailstorm of bullets rained down around him. The Gatling Gang had come by their moniker honestly, laying down rapid fire that mimicked the output of the famed war gun. Unruffled by the deadly flurry, however, Dan flipped onto his back behind the log and reloaded his Henry repeater with methodical precision. The six-gun at his hip sported full chambers. The knife on his belt was razor-sharp and ready for action.'” Stone’s voice trailed off, cueing Lily.

She grinned, taking up the challenge like a seasoned gamester.

“‘Bullets blasted shards of bark all around Dan, but he just brushed the pieces off his chest with a flick of his wrist. Billy’s gang couldn’t aim worth a hill of beans. That’s why they always sprayed so much lead. It was the only way they ever hit anything. Too often, innocent civilians. Dan scowled, his jaw tightening as he rolled onto his side to steal a peek over the top of the log. One against seven were lousy odds, but Billy Cavanaugh and his crew were vermin that needed e-rad-i-cation.'” She stumbled slightly over the large word, but it didn’t stop her. She passed right over it and forged ahead. “‘He’d just wait for them to reload, then take them out one by one.'”

Stone closed the book and set it in his lap. “You do know this story is hugely exaggerated, right?” He tossed the dime novel to Lily and winked at her. “There were only five men in the Gatling Gang, not seven. And Daniel Barrett didn’t bring them all in on his own. He had help.”

A Worthy Pursuit

Click cover to order

Lily’s blue eyes glimmered as she rose up on her knees, bringing her face level with his. “Do you mean to tell me that you know Dead-Eye Dan?”

Stone blew a self-deprecating breath out of the side of his mouth. “Know him? Shoot. He and I were partners back in the day. ‘Course no one actually calls him Dead-Eye Dan. He’s a rancher now, foreman at a place called Hawk’s Haven up north a piece. Gave up chasin’ criminals in order to chase cows. He is a crack shot, though. Saved my sorry hide more than once.” He nudged Lily with his shoulder, nearly toppling her back onto the cushions. “‘Course I saved his hide a time or two, myself.”

“Wait a minute.” Lily drew in a breath so large, he expected her head to start swelling. “You’re . . . You’re . . . Hammer Rockwell. The man who shows up in the nick of time and takes the Gatling Gang by surprise by climbing down the box canyon wall with his knife clenched in his teeth!”

Hammer Rockwell? Knife in his teeth? “Of all the ridiculous, made-up, nonsense,” Stone sputtered. “I’ll have you know, all my knives were safely stowed in their sheaths when I made that climb.”

  • Do you like your fictional heroes larger than life? Or do you prefer more realistic story lines?

Women Make History Daily, Not Just Once a Year

Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of [their] sex. —Abigail Adams (1744-1818), second First Lady of the U.S.

“Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of [their] sex.”
—Abigail Adams (1744-1818), second First Lady of the U.S.

I hope everyone will forgive me for not writing about western history this month — at least not specifically. Every so often, though, even those of us devoted to the history of the Old West must take a look even farther into the past, and sometimes much closer to the present, in order to develop a broader perspective about the era in which our imagination spends so much time. This is one of those occasions.

I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves. —Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), writer and advocate for women’s rights

I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.
—Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author and advocate for women’s rights

March is Women’s History Month. While I appreciate the increased emphasis on remembering women’s contributions to science, art, philosophy, and society in general, I’ve always considered it a bit odd that we need reminding women have contributed. Designating a specific month during which to focus on women’s history implies that for the rest of the year, everyone thinks of women as secondary characters in their own life stories.

Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled. —Jane Addams (1860-1935) social reformer, women’s rights activist, first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

“Old-fashioned ways which no longer apply to changed conditions are a snare in which the feet of women have always become readily entangled.”
—Jane Addams (1860-1935), social reformer, women’s rights activist, first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

Women don’t sit around waiting for men to make all the great discoveries, think all the great thoughts, and fight all the dragons. They never have. Throughout history, as many women as men have explored the unexplored, cured the previously incurable, and given voices to those unable to speak for themselves. And, as has been famously stated, they did it all dancing backward in high heels.

If women could go into your Congress, I think justice would soon be done to the Indians. —Thoc-me-tony (aka Sara Winnemucca, 1844-1891), Pauite educator, interpreter, writer, activist

“If women could go into your Congress, I think justice would soon be done to the Indians.”
—Thoc-me-tony (aka Sara Winnemucca, 1844-1891), Pauite educator, interpreter, writer, activist

“It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…,” women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in one of their suffrage pamphlets. “[H]ow much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought…?”

Anthony and Stanton often railed against inequality between the genders and the resulting injustices visited upon the distaff side of humanity — lack of access to education and discriminatory civil laws, for example. Today, the philosophy they espoused is, or should be, de rigueur, but until the mid-20th Century, speaking such thoughts in public in many societies carried significant risk to life and liberty. In some societies, it still does.

The best protection any woman can have … is courage. —Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), social activist, abolitionist, women’s rights crusader

The best protection any woman can have … is courage.
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), social activist, abolitionist, women’s rights crusader

For precisely that reason, historical romance novels can be important beyond the obvious entertainment. Unlike much literature written in previous ages, primarily by men, romance novels written during the past twenty to thirty years, primarily by women, portray heroines and female villains with courage, determination, and strength equal to the hero’s. Call me a man-bashing feminist if you must, but I believe it is crucial for readers, particularly younger ones, to be presented with female characters who are much more than decorative pedestal dwellers.

The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race. —Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), social reformer, women’s suffrage leader

“The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.”
—Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), social reformer, women’s suffrage leader

In fact, when one studies history, it becomes impossible to consider the romantic notion of heroes on white chargers rescuing damsels in distress anything more than exactly that: a romantic notion. On any frontier in any age, toughness and capability are essential for survival, regardless of gender. Today’s well-researched historical fiction makes that abundantly clear — and like it or not, fiction resonates in contemporary culture, subtly but undeniably influencing attitudes on both sides of the gender divide. Art always has been both reactive and proactive in that way.

So, readers and writers of romance, don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting your time with ludicrous, lowbrow “trash.” You’re not. You’re buttressing ramparts our foremothers built long ago. Could there be a more pleasant, if stealthy, way to celebrate Women’s History Month?
 

Love is in the Air

HeartsValentine’s Day is just a few short days away, and if your schedule is anything like mine, there is little time for reading, which is a shame because my heart longs for a sweet, romantic read to enjoy during this holiday of love.

Well, I have the solution. Novellas! Short, easy reads that can be finished in a couple hours yet still pack a romantic punch.

Only $2.51 for Kindle. Click on cover to purchase at Amazon.

Only $2.51 for Kindle. Click on cover to purchase at Amazon.

Now, as it happens, I’ve just released a new novella myself. Love on the Mend is the story of a young doctor, weary from the horrors he experienced in the Civil War, who finally returns to the home he ran away from 17 years earlier, eager to lay his past to rest and finally find peace. Only his past is still alive and kicking. And so is the feisty nurse who crawls under his skin and makes him feel more alive than he has in years.

This is a tie-in to my last full-length release, Full Steam Ahead. Jacob Sadler is the runaway boy Darius and Nicole take under their wing. However, the story can be read as a stand alone as well.

But there are more great stories out there that will make wonderfully romantic Valentine’s reads. Here are some of my favorites:

Jodi Thomas, one of my favorite western romance authors of all time, has two Valentine’s novellas now available as e-singles. (They were previously published in anthologies along with fabulous fellow fillies – Linda Broday and Phyliss Miranda.)

Click to order

Click to order

Heart on His Sleeve

Headstrong Amanda Hamilton has gotten used to being the least popular girl in town, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a little hurt when her paper heart is the last one picked—and a gunslinger winds up as her Valentine.  But after one unexpected kiss, she starts to rethink her dedication to spinsterhood…

In a Heartbeat

An army fort is no place for a Valentine’s Day dance—or so thinks stubborn Colt Barnett. Until a lovely woman turns his head.

 

Click to order


Kaki Warner, another fabulous western author, has a novella that I fell in love with a couple years ago. It’s more of a Christmas setting than Valentines, but the story has more to do with a violent winter snowstorm that causes a little girl to go missing than it does with Christmas. Loner Daniel Hobart goes after the lost girl and falls in love with her mother along the way. Snow still falls in February, right? This story is a good  read any time of year, and will warm your heart enough to bring in spring.

  •  So what are you doing this Valentine’s Day? Any romantic plans?
  • Do you enjoy novellas or do they seem too short for you?
  • What Valentine’s reads would you recommend?

Click to order


Oh, and as a special bonus, one of my older titles (full-length, not novella) happens to be on sale today only for $0.99! Head in the Clouds is my Texas fairy tale with a Jane Eyre twist.

When a recovering romantic goes to work for a handsome ranch owner, her heart’s not the only thing in danger.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you enjoy an overflowing bouquet of romantic stories this week.

COMING LATE TO THE PARTY!

Charlene Newsletter Banner2  Sometimes in life, I come late to the party.  I haven’t ever attended a Harry Potter event. Nope,not me.  Everyone has told me how great the books are and how much fun the movies are, but frankly, I never found the time or had the inclination to read the books or see the movies.  Might I say, I believe all of you! 

The same thing happened with Twilight. No way, would I read a story about a vampire family.  But guess what, long after the first Twilight movie came out, my friend literally stuck the book in my face and told me to read it. I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Guess what?  I read the book and spent the next two weeks, buying or borrowing the rest of the series.  I came late to the party with Twilight, but I am so glad I did. I read every word of the series and was first in line at the box office when the movies came out.  Had to see Edward and Bella’s HEA, didn’t I?outlander 2

Now, there’s this book called Outlander.  I’d heard wonderful things about the story, and my friends would tell me not to let the page count (coming in at 866 pages) daunt me. It’s a fast read, they said.  But I never attended the page party for Outlander either.  Where would I find time to read such a long book?  And only because I’m on Twitter and Facebook, did I hear about the new Outlander series for television, did I finally attend a celebration.  Oh, and did I mention that when OUTLANDER, the first book of Diana Gabaldon’s AMAZING series hit the cable screens, it was the most talked about event on Twitter for the entire day?   What can I say about the first episode…LOVED IT!! It’s right up my alley.  Time travel,  action, adventure, conflict, conflict, conflict and the most uncanny kind of love triangle I’ve ever seen. I swear to you, I watched the first five minutes the other night and knew in my heart that OUTLANDER was a beautiful work of art. The writing is fantastic.  To think, I met Diana Gabaldon once. We traveled to a Romance Writer’s Convention on the same plane, years ago and I really was clueless as to her work and talent.  Silly me, late to the party again.

I have to give props to the actors too. Claire, brilliantly played by Caitriona Balfe has a hauntingly beautiful voice and onscreen persona.  She was perfectly cast as the feisty heroine.  Jamie Fraser, played by Sam Heughan was captivating as the very dashing, hunky Scottish hero.  He’s  swoonable, ladies.

Here’s a brief synopsis taken right off the Amazon pages.outlander-master675 - Copy Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another… In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

So tell me have you ever come late to the party?  Have you ever discovered joy in something you’d previously decided against?   Have you read Outlander? And the other books in the series?  Did you watch the premiere of Outlander on television and what did you think?  

While, I’m praising Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful book, I like to remind you that my newest release REDEEMING THE CEO COWBOY is available now on Amazon and all other online and retail bookstores!  Here’s a very nice 4 **** REVIEW and ranking below and I’m happy to say that readers are enjoying the story. Is 8 your lucky number?  It may just be mine!
AMAZON 

 

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Updated: August 11, 2014 — 6:07 pm

A Nineteenth Century Woman’s Reading Material

 

LindaEarly magazines had a tough go and it was due mainly to distribution difficulties. There was no easy way to get the periodicals into the hands of women. It often took weeks and months for mail to travel via stagecoach.  Another factor was the fact subscriptions were very expensive at $2 and $3 dollars a year, especially for non-essential things. Most folks back then were hard pressed to come by that kind of money. In the larger cities, some magazines resorted to accepting pork, corn, cheese etc. in lieu of cash.

Nineteenth century women were often starved for something to engage their minds and relieve the tedium of their lives but before Godey’s Lady’s Book their choices were severely limited. Godey’s was the most widely circulated before the Civil War. The magazine was in circulation from 1830 to 1878. The magazine was owned by Louis Godey with Sarah Hale as the editor. Women loved reading articles they could relate to. While fashion plates were included in every issue, the magazine was geared toward the ordinary woman who was less educated.

Godey Lady's BookLadies Home Journal began in 1883 and was in circulation for 131 years. Sadly, the July 2014 issue will be the last. It was the first magazine to attain one million subscribers and it was one of the first periodical to tackle some of the problems of the nineteen century such as suffrage, family planning, marriage advice, and child rearing.

Good Housekeeping came along in 1885. The thirty-two-page biweekly sold for $2.50 a year. It offered advice on home decorating, cooking and dressmaking but also carried puzzles and quizzes. It’s still in circulation today and publishes ten editions around the world. Their Seal of Approval has become a gold standard for quality in everything.

Cosmopolitan began in Rochester, New York in 1886 by Paul Schlicht who after sufffering financial difficulties due to the $4.oo a year subscription price sold the magazine to John Walker. To bolster interest in the periodical, Walker set out on a railroad tour of the New England states, giving the memoirs of either Ulysses S. Grant or General William T. Sherman to new subscribers. By 1896 the Cosmopolitan had secured its place as a leading periodical. The Hearst Corporation acquired the magazine in 1905.

Ladies Home JournalVogue was born in 1892, House Beautiful in 1896, National Geographic in 1888 and finally Scientific American in 1845.

There were others of course like the New England Kitchen Magazine in 1894 and the Delineator which included dress patterns in every issue, but the ones I’ve listed were the leading sellers. But probably it was rare for one of any kind to find its way into a pioneer woman’s hands.

After the struggles of Godey’s Lady’s Book, it seemed a periodical explosion took place. I had no idea some of these went back so far. I’ll bet you didn’t either.

If you had lived back then and had the money, which one would you most likely have subscribed to?
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