Category: western romance

Julie Lence: The Poinsettia


We’re so delighted to have Julie Lence come to visit our neck of the woods. She always has something interesting to share. She also has a giveaway so please comment. Please make her welcome.

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me-mediumThe Poinsettia is a native Mexican plant. Its origins trace back to present day Taxco. The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and is defined as a female flower, without petals and usually without sepals, surrounded by individual male flowers enclosed in a cup-shaped structure called a cyathium. The Euphorbia genus contains 700-1000 species. The Aztecs in central Mexico cultivated the plant and used the colorful leaves, known as bracts, to make a reddish-purple dye for clothes and makeup. The Poinsettia’s milky sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers.

 

joel-roberts-poinsettJoel Roberts Poinsett is credited as the first American to bring the plant to the United States. A botanist from Greenville, South Carolina, Poinsett was also the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. Best remembered as the founder of the Smithsonian Institute, Poinsett traveled to the Taxco area, discovered the colorful plants growing on adjacent hillsides and had some of them shipped to his home, where he grew them in his greenhouse. From there, he gifted some of the plants to his friends and also sent some to botanical gardens and to fellow botanist John Bartram in Philadelphia. Bartram sent the plant to his friend Robert Buist. Buist was a plants-man from Pennsylvania and thought to be the first person to sell the Poinsettia under its original name. Legend has it the Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, became known as the Poinsettia in the 1830’s, after Joel Robert Poinsett.

 

poinsettiaHow did the Poinsettia become known as the Christmas plant? The Aztecs prized the poinsettia and believed it to be a symbol of purity. In the 17th century, Franciscan monks in Mexico incorporated the flower into their Fiesta of Santa Pesbre; a nativity procession. This is the first time the Poinsettia was associated with Christmas, leading Mexico’s Christians to adopt the plant as their Christmas Eve flower. The star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. The red leaves represent Christ’s blood and the white leaves symbolize his purity.

 

andrea-sadek-white-poinsettia-figurineOnce the monks included the Poinsettia in their nativity procession, a few legends sprang up as to why and how the plant became associated with Christmas. One is the tale of poor, young Pepita who was upset because she did not have a gift to give to the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve mass. As she made her way to the church, her cousin tried to cheer her up. Pedro told Pepita that even the smallest gift presented to Jesus in love would make the Christ child happy. Pepita picked some weeds and placed them beside the manger. Before everyone’s eyes, the weeds magically transformed into beautiful red flowers. Another tale says it was an angel who told Pepita to pick the weeds and bring them to the church. Regardless, the parishioners swore they’d witnessed a miracle, and from that evening on, the flowers became known as Flores de Noche Buena; Flowers of the Holy Night.

 

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Have you gotten a poinsettia this Christmas or have plans to do so? As a Thank You for chatting with me today, I’m gifting 2 lucky winners Kindle copies of each of my 3 short Christmas stories. Merry Christmas Everyone! I wish you and your family a joyous holiday season. Julie

 

**To preview my Christmas stories, please visit Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/author/julielence?tag=pettpist-20

E.E. Burke Is Dreaming of Christmas

EE Burke headshotTwo Brides, Three Wishes…an unforgettable Christmas

Thanks so much for having me back to visit. I’m eager to share about this Western historical romance Christmas collection that’s topped numerous lists at Amazon, including Historical and Western Romance.

 

 

 

amobcc-thumbnailAn American Mail-Order Bride Christmas Collection

 

Victoria, Bride of Kansas (#1 Amazon Bestseller)

Jilted society miss Victoria Lowell travels a thousand miles to marry a suitor whose romantic letters won her heart, unaware she’s been corresponding with the groom’s sister. The man she believes she loves isn’t the one she meets. In fact, he isn’t even expecting her. When the truth finally comes out, it will take a miracle to deliver a happily ever after.

 

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride

On a mission to bring toys to orphans for Christmas schoolteacher Maggie O’Brien is forced to go to her brother’s fiercest business competitor for help. Though he agrees, his benevolent gesture holds one catch—she must find him a bride. Will the love of a determined suitor and the spirit of the holiday capture the matchmaker’s heart?

 

The Christmas Wish

In this short story, a young orphan who has never known love gets his Christmas wish.

 

Some fun facts about this Christmas project

 

Victoria, Bride of Kansas, which became an Amazon bestseller, started as part of an unprecedented project with 45 other authors, the American Mail-Order Brides series. This book, about a lonely socialite who travels over a thousand miles to find true love, was a finalist in the 2016 Booksellers’ Best Awards and a semifinalist in the Kindle Best Book awards.

 

In this story, we meet a little girl, Fannie, who is mute. She hasn’t spoken since her mother left her two years earlier. Desperate to communicate with the troubled child, Victoria gives her a treasured doll and teaches her sign language.

 

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Where did Victoria learn sign language? At the first American School for the Deaf in Hartsford, Conn., which opened its doors in 1817. Within forty years of the opening of the Hartford school, more than twenty other schools for the deaf had been established, the majority residential, teaching manual sign language.

David O’Brien doesn’t react well to Victoria teaching his daughter how to sign. If she doesn’t speak again and relies on sign language, he fears she will be excluded. His feelings reflect the general consensus of the time, which was fired by a fierce debate over the best way to teach the deaf to communicate. “Oralists” argued that the deaf should be taught to read lips and speak (English) in order assimilate into the broader society. Even Alexander Graham Bell, better known for his invention of the telephone, advocated banning sign language. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the deaf were taught both sign language and lip reading.

 

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride is the top-rated sequel. I couldn’t let Victoria’s meddling sister-in-law remain a spinster! This well-intentioned matchmaker has plans for a scheming Santa that backfire, with unexpected consequences. And yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I can’t wait for you to meet him.

 

This story incorporates a number of American Christmas traditions, including the beloved character of Santa Claus. Our version of Santa may appear contemporary, but the venerable gift-giver has a long history.

 

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Santa started with a real person. Saint Nicholas, born in the 3rd century in a village in present-day Turkey, is said to have spent his inheritance to help the needy, and he had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

 

colonial-dutch-santa

 

Fast forward to 18th century America where immigrants from Holland brought with them the tradition of Sinterklaas, who became “Santa Claus.” Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show images of an old man in a robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys.

 

old-santa-on-roof

 

In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), took the legend another step. Entitled An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas or The Night Before Christmas. Moore’s poem is largely responsible for the image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a nod of his head. This is also where we first have references of flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

 

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But we have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for the richest legends we have today surrounding Santa Claus. From 1863 through 1886, Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly with references to Santa. Here is the most familiar Santa “portrait” he did in 1881. It is Nast who gave Santa his familiar suit, his North Pole workshop, the elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

America’s Victorians were very familiar with Santa and his legend. Department store Santa’s popped up at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.

In fact, the hero in my book, who owns a general store, plays Santa in a parade. He wears what was traditional garb for Santa back then: a long green cape and stocking hat and a long flowing beard.

Santa’s on parade became a popular theme in towns and cities, and in the 1930s, Santa received “contemporary” red costume.

 

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Yes, Santa’s reputation reaches far back in history, and at the heart of his character we find love and generosity, and a special kind of magic that makes the world a better place.

 

You can pick up your copy of An American Mail-Order Bride Christmas Collection for only 99 cents until Christmas.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fkw7e9

Nook: http://bit.ly/AMOBCCNook

Apple: http://bit.ly/AMOBCCApple

Google: http://bit.ly/AMOBCCApple

Kobo: http://bit.ly/AMOBCCKobo

Here’s a video to get you in the mood for this heartwarming Christmas read.

 

 

What gift did you treasure when you were a child? Commenters on this post will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of the audiobook, Santa’s Mail-Order Bride (US or UK), or the free eBook.

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How to Talk Like a Texan, Place Names Edition

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
How Texans pronounce place names ’round here.

Southeast Texas mapIn case y’all haven’t noticed, Texans do things our own way. Pronunciation, for example, is always a crapshoot when you’re from out of state. If you ever get lost in Texas, place names are good to know. Depending upon where you are in the state when you ask for directions using a mispronounced name, at best you’ll get a blank look. At worst, you’ll be laughed out of town.

 

First, a few universal basics:

Any name ending in “-boro” is pronounced “[name]buh-ruh”
Any name ending in “-shire” is pronounced “[name]shur.”
Most names ending in “-ville” are pronounced “[name]vuhl.”
Most names ending “-land” are pronounced “[name]lund.”
In Texas, “bayou” most often is pronounced “BI-oh,” not “BI-yoo.”

 

Mispronouncing any of the following is a dead giveaway you ain’t from around here:

Bexar: Bear

Blanco: BLANK-oh

Boerne: BUR-nee

Bosque: BAHS-key

Bowie: BOO-ee (C’mon, folks. Jim Bowie was one of the heroes of the Alamo. The least we can do is say his name right.)

Texas bayou

Texas bayou

Brazos: BRA-zuhs (short A, as in “gas”)

Eldorado: ell-duh-RAY-doh

Gruene: Green

Guadalupe: GWAH-dah-loop

Humble: UHM-buhl (Leave out the H, people!)

Luckenbach: LEW-ken-bahk (There is absolutely no excuse for getting this one wrong. Merle Haggard sang a number-one country hit about the town, for heaven’s sake.)

Manchaca: MAN-shack

Mexia: Muh-HAY-uh

Palacios: puh-LASH-us

Pecos: PAY-cuss

San Marcos: San MAR-cuss

Seguin: Seh-GEEN

Waxahachie: Wawks-uh-HATCH-ee

 

The following are more obscure.

We’ll forgive you for mispronouncing these. Many are spoken nothing like they’re spelled. Some are Texan-ized Spanish, German, or American Indian. Some are settlers’ surnames. The rest came from Lord only knows where.

Alvarado: Al-vuh-RAY-doh

Agua Dulce: Ah-wah DULE-sih

Anahuac: ANN-uh-wack

Aquilla: Uh-KWILL-uh

Balmorhea: Bal-muh-RAY

Banquete: Ban-KETT-ee

Bedias: BEE-dice

Bogata: Buh-GO-duh

Bolivar: BAHL-iv-er

Bronte: Brahnt

Brookshire: BROOK-shur

Buda: BYOO-duh

Bula: BYOO-luh

Buna: BYOO-nuh

Burnet: BURN-it

Texas bluebonnets at sunset

Texas bluebonnets at sunset

Carmine: Kar-MEEN

Celina: Suh-LIE-nuh

Christoval: Chris-TOE-vuhl

Cibolo: SEE-oh-low

Coahoma: Kuh-HO-muh

Colmesneil: COLE-mess-neel

Comal: KOH-muhl

Del Valle: Del VA-lee (like valley)

Erath: EE-rath

Falfurrias: Fal-FURY-us

Farrar: FAR-uh

Flatonia: Flat-TONE-yuh

Floresville: FLOORS-vuhl

Floydada: Floy-DAY-duh

Fredonia: Free-DOHN-yuh

Fulshear: FULL-shur

Grand Saline: Gran Suh-LEEN

Helotes: Hell-OH-tiss

Hico: HIGH-koh

Hochheim: HO-hime

Iraan: EYE-ruh-ANN

Jardin: JAR-duhn

Jermyn: JER-muhn (like German)

Jiba: HEE-buh

Jourdanton: JERD-n-tuhn

Juliff: JEW-liff

Kleberg: CLAY-berg

Knippa: Kuh-NIP-uh

Kountz: KOONTS

Kosciusko: Kuh-SHOOS-koh

Kuykendal: KIRK-en-doll

Lake Buchanan: Lake Buh-CAN-uhn

Lamarque: Luh-MARK

Lamesa: Luh-MEE-suh

Lampasas: Lam-PASS-us

Latexo: Luh-TEX-oh

Leakey: LAY-key

Levita: Luh-VIE-tuh

Lillian: LILL-yun

horses in pasture near Llano, Texas

horses in pasture near Llano, Texas

Llano: LAN-oh

Lorena: Low-REE-nuh

Manor: MAIN-er

Marathon: MARE-uh-thun

Marquez: mar-KAY

Miami: My-AM-uh (Texas ain’t Florida, after all.)

Medina: Muh-DEE-nuh

Montague: Mahn-TAG

Navarro: Nuh-VARE-uh

Nacogdoches: Nack-uh-DOH-chess

New Berlin: Noo BUR-lin

New Braunfels: New BRAWN-fuls

Nocona: Nuh-KOH-nuh

Olney: ALL-nee

Opelika: OPE-uh-LIKE-uh

Palestine: PAL-uh-steen (Nobody gets that one right unless they’re from Texas.)

Pedernales: Purr-den-AL-ess (Yes, the letters and sounds are all scrambled up. Just go with it.)

Pflugerville: FLOO-ger-ville (One exception to the “-vuhl” rule.)

Poth: POE-th

Quemado: Kuh-MAH-doh

Quitaque: KITTY-qway

Refugio: Reh-FURY-oh

Salado: Suh-LAY-doh

Salinero: Suh-LEEN-yo

Santa Elena: San-tuh LEE-na

Study Butte: STEW-dee BYOOT

Tawakoni: Tuh-WOK-uh-nee

Tivoli: Tih-VOH-luh

Tulia: TOOL-yuh

Uvalde: Yoo-VAL-dee

Weesatche: WEE-sash

Weslaco: WESS-luh-koh

 

Texans, what names aren’t on this list? The rest of y’all: What odd place names occur in your state? Leave a comment and let us know! I’ll give two commenters their choice of the Christmas ebooks Peaches or The Last Three Miles.

 

Peaches, by Kathleen Rice AdamsRunning a ranch and fending off three meddlesome aunts leaves Whit McCandless no time, and even less patience, for the prickly new schoolmarm’s greenhorn carelessness. The teacher needs educating before somebody gets hurt.

Ruth Avery can manage her children and her school just fine without interference from some philistine of a rancher. If he’d pay more attention to his cattle and less to her affairs, they’d both prosper.

He didn’t expect to need rescuing. She never intended to fall in love.

The Last Three Miles, by Kathleen Rice AdamsWhen an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive.

Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.

The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles. (spicy)

 

 

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Welcome to Shanna Hatfield–and three books, three winners!

It is a pleasure and a treat to be a guest once again here at Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you to all the fillies for hosting me today. I’ll be giving away THREE ecopies of The Christmas Quandary, so please leave a comment.

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I love history and digging into tidbits of the past as I research details for my sweet western romances.

In my latest release, The Christmas Quandary, I happened upon a toy that captured my interest.

zoetrope-1

A zoetrope is one of several animation devices (pre-motion pictures) that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs, shown in progressive phases of motion.

The name Zoetrope was composed from the Greek root words “life” and “wheel” – meaning “wheel of life.”

zoetrope-2

A cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides is the basic component of the zoetrope. The inner surface of the cylinder features a band with images from a set of sequenced pictures. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures. The slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together, and the user sees a rapid succession of images, producing the illusion of motion.

A 5,000-year-old earthenware bowl from Iran is considered a predecessor of the zoetrope. The bowl, decorated in a series of sequential images, portrays a goat jumping toward a tree and eating its leaves. zoetrope-4

Variations existed on the idea of the zoetrope, but it wasn’t until December 1866, when an American company, Milton Bradley and Co., advertised a zoetrope.

Zoetropes were eventually displaced by more advanced technology, notably film and later television. Today, some zoetropes can still be found in special art projects and performances.

In The Christmas Quandary, one of the characters purchases a zoetrope for his daughter’s Christmas present. The only quandary surrounding the gift is whether or not the child’s uncles will wear it out before Christmas morning since they can’t seem to stop playing with it.

Have you ever been in a quandary? Had a dilemma?

Share your answers for a chance to win one of three copies of The Christmas Quandary (Book 5 in the Hardman Holidays series).

And if you haven’t read any of the Hardman books, The Christmas Bargain (book 1) will be available for free digital downloads on Monday!

christmas-quandary

~*~

Shanna Hatfield 2Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with characters that seem incredibly real.

When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Make sure you sign up for her Newsletter to get the latest on new releases

and exclusive giveaways (including a free short story set in the old west)!

christmas-quandry

Buns & Roses – And a Double Giveaway!!!

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Participating authors with the signed quilt in the background.

Participating authors with the signed quilt in the background. As you can see, there were many hats involved.

Last month, I was honored to participate in the annual Romance Literacy Tea benefiting the Literacy Center in Richardson, Texas. Romance authors from around Texas and around the country, join together for a weekend full of events all set to raise money for the cause of literacy. And since it is in Texas, I had the chance to meet several Western Romance authors who were new to me.

Each author hosts a table and visits with readers who purchase tickets for the event. There are a ton of fabulous giveaways in the silent auction, books are sold, and a gorgeous handmade quilt is raffled. When the numbers were totaled, this year saw a record-breaking donation of over $20,000. YeeHaw!!!

Jill is in the green sweater, my spot is to the left next to another fun author, J.D. Tyler who writes contemporary romance and paranormal romance.

Jill is in the green sweater talking to none other than Lorraine Heath. My spot is to the left, next to another fun author, J.D. Tyler, who writes contemporary and paranormal romance.

The weekend got started with a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble. Thanks to my name being at the end of the alphabet, I was seated next to our keynote speaker, Jill Shalvis. Cool! Such a sweet lady. I enjoyed chatting with her and her husband.

After the book signing, we had dinner at the home of one of the volunteers. We ate yummy lasagne cups, signed our quilt blocks for the raffle, and mingled with the handful of readers who paid extra to join us for this private dinner.

Me and Melody - My surprise Lompoc Buddy.

Me and Melody – My surprise Lompoc buddy.

Now, mingling is not my forte, but when I sat at the table, across from me was an avid reader who was an air force wife. When she started talking about California, I asked her where she met her husband. As it turns out, she grew up in Lompoc, my tiny California hometown where her husband was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Not only that, we both played in the Lompoc HS marching band (flute) and her friend’s sister (who I actually remembered!) graduated in the same class as I did. Talk about a small world! That was so fun!

The big event was on Sunday with the Literacy Tea. Each author brought favors to have on the tables. I gave away books, ladies handkerchiefs, and a variety of pocket watches to match the cover of my latest release, No Other Will Do. I shared a table with the lovely Amy Lillard, so all of our table mates got the bonus of two gifts. Being far more crafty than me, Amy made these fun masks for us to use in our pictures. If you check out the back row, you’ll see Melanie and Brittney, two P&P regulars.

Masks On

Masks On

Masks Off

Masks Off

What a fun event!

Meeting with other inspie authors - Leann Harris and Kellie Coates Gilbert.

Meeting with other inspie authors – Leann Harris and Kellie Coates Gilbert.

One of the lovely Literacy Center volunteers.

One of the lovely Literacy Center volunteers.

Me and Leslie - A book reviewer and avid reader.

Me and Leslie – A book reviewer and avid reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And since I was surrounded by great western romance authors, I couldn’t pass up the chance to support the cause of both literacy and western romance by buying a few books and getting them autographed. And that’s where the giveaway comes in! Jill Shalvis’s book isn’t exactly western but it is small town, so I threw it into the bunch as well.

I have two prize packages that I’ll be giving away. All books included are autographed editions. For a chance to win enter a comment about what the gift of reading has meant to you.

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Our Guest Blogger, Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is giving away a print copy of A Love Transformed to one lucky commenter. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see if…her winner is you!

tracie-peterson-author-photoAfter writing 110 books, most of which are historical in setting, I’m often called The Queen of Christian Historicals. Anybody who knows me, knows that historical research for my stories is important to me. I work hard for accuracy and sometimes that means getting my hands dirty to learn something I want my historical characters to do. In keeping with that I’ve learned to drive a stage coach, tat, make soap and candles, handle firearms, skin a deer, studied and use centuries old patterns for clothing and the list goes on. I once had a wanna-be writer say to me, “Why bother – it’s just fiction?” My response? Because it matters!me-spinning-1

Nothing ruins a story faster for me than an author who hasn’t bothered to do their research. For example, one book I read had characters on a railroad line that didn’t exist. It might have been okay to create a fictional rail line, but the author had a railroad in the west before railroads had been established. I read a story once where the hero and heroine were eating at a famous hotel restaurant – only the restaurant wouldn’t be a part of the hotel for another twenty years. It’s things like that that make me throw books against the wall. Of course, I realize many readers will never know the difference, but to me it’s a sacred trust we the author have with the reader to make the books as accurate as possible. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. I make plenty, but we owe it to our readers to give our very best.

Recently, I decided to have a character who finds healing and consolation in working with sheep. She enjoys herding the sheep and then learns to card and spin wool into yarn and so I thought I should do the same. I found someone with sheep who also worked with the raw wool. The smelly stuff had to be washed, dyed and carded and so I learned all about that. Next, I found a wonderful woman who is a historical weaver and spinner. She taught me to spindle spin. My yarn wasn’t very even, but it was good enough to use in crocheting a hat.carding

Once I had spindle spinning under my belt, I found a friend who taught me to spin on a wheel. What fun! I found I really took to the process. I loved the feel of the wool in my hands and the methodic, relaxing process of sitting at and operating the wheel. I found it to be great time for prayer. Better still, it allowed me to be able to share the process in my story. Sure, I could have just plunked my character down at the spinning wheel and said “she spun” but I felt that knowing more allowed me to really bring that action alive.spindle-spinning-1

To me learning new things for the sake of the story is important, whether it’s new writing techniques or old day-to-day processes that kept a family alive and well. I love to talk to people who know their history and craft. To me one of the most important aspects of our job as writers is to weave history seamlessly into the story so that the reader finds themselves swept up in the time-period and lives of the characters. My favorite authors are those who can draw me into the story so completely that I feel like I’m there—right alongside the characters. Those are the very best stories of all. So if you ever wonder if the extra research is worth the effort—it is.

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Don’t Fence Me In~Paty Jager, guest blogger

A rousing wildflower welcome to Paty Jager today! Paty lives on a real-life ranch and writes awesome western romance. She’s taking Tanya’s place (who’s recovering from Hawaiian jetlag!) and giving away a copy of Davis: Letters of Fate to one lucky commenter. Please check back tomorrow to see whose name flew out of the Stetson! (more…)

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams header

First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.

headless horsemanTexas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.

Some say he still does.

In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)

Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas, 1865

Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.

As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.

After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.

So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.

William A.A. "Big Foot" Wallace, ca. 1872

Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872

Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.

Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.

Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.

El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.

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Robbing Banks Stealing HeartsI haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

 

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.

He eased backward a step.

So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.

The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.

Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.

The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.

The gauzy forms kept pace.

“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.

Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”

Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”

“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.

The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”

“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”

“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”

“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.

Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.

He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.

 

 

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Tattoos in the American West

 

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I don’t think anyone will disagree that often research takes us to some very interesting places. When I wrote my new release To Love a Texas Ranger, I needed to know just how prevalent tattoos were among the people who lived in 1877 and I found out some surprising things.

The earliest recorded tattoos were in 12,000 BC in Egypt. The workers building the pyramids wore them. Later the Romans adopted tattooing to mark criminals and slaves.

Interestingly enough, the Greeks used tattoos as a form of communication among spies. Bet you didn’t know that. And other nationalities utilized tattoos in ceremonies.

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OLIVE OATMAN

Borneo had a rather odd practice of tattooing. And maybe they still do. It was customary for a young woman to get a tattoo to advertise a particular skill and that increased her marriageability status. I just wonder what kind of tattoo indicated being a good housekeeper? A broom? A mop?

The American Indians also were big on tattooing. One of their most famous captives—Olive Oatman—was captured in 1851 and then sold to the Mojave tribe where they tattooed her chin with blue dye of some sort. There’s conflicting stories about what the tattoo meant. Some say it marked Olive as a captive and others claim it was a mark of esteem. The western TV series, Hell on Wheels, portrayed her in the show only they named her character Eva.

Love a Texas Ranger smallerIn my new book, a horrible bad guy wears a black widow spider tattoo on his hand. Sam Legend keeps his eyes peeled throughout the book for a man with that spider tattoo. The scene where he finally finds him is pretty gripping.

In Texas, some Legends are born, some are made, and some are created by destiny.

This Legend family has carved their name in blood on the raw Texas land. Sam is tested in ways he couldn’t have expected as secrets are exposed and he finds the love of a lifetime. Only the path is a rocky one. He can’t bear the thought of waking up in the same place every morning for the rest of his life so feels he can’t ask her to marry him. Sierra Hunt has never had a home and dreams of owning one where she can plunk down deep, lasting roots and she won’t give that up—not even for Sam.

I’m giving away one copy of my new book (if you already have it, I can do something else) to one person who can tell me either about their tattoo or one they saw on someone else. This is going to be fun!

Buy Links:  AMAZON  |   B&N   |   iBOOKS

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Guest Post from Anna Schmidt

anna-schmidtHaving been born and raised in the hill country of southwestern Virginia and spending most of my adult life in Wisconsin, I am not exactly ‘cowgirl’ material. But I was blessed to have a father who devoured Louis L’Amour novels and loved western films. Later in life I had friends who lived in Phoenix where I visited several times, hiking the mountain and desert trails and marveling at the diversity of landscape this great country of ours has to offer. So when my publisher came looking for someone to propose a Western historical series, of course I raised my hand!!!

LAST CHANCE COWBOYS is a four-book series about a ranching family in Arizona in the late 1800’s. A lot of people don’t realize that the era of the cowboy as depicted in movies like Lonesome Dove was brief. Once the railroads made their way across the country, cattle drives that covered long distances and kept cowboys away from home for weeks or even months at a time were a thing of the past. Another factor that played into the demise of the Hollywood portrait of a cowboy was the huge influx of settlers heading West and taking claim to land—fencing that land to mark their property and in effect ending—or at least seriously limiting—the ‘open range.’ There were other factors as well—resettlement of native peoples among them.

Attending conferences in Denver and San Antonio, I was fortunate to connect with Arizonian Melody Groves . Melody has been my reader for all the books of the series and her contributions to setting and detail cannot be underestimated. I also spent ten days last fall in Santa Fe—first on a group tour that exposed me to pueblo life and history and then for a three day self-sabbatical when I stayed at the Quaker Meetinghouse in Santa Fe—a wonderful adobe building that certainly gave me the flavor of living in those surroundings. I’m returning this fall for a refresher!

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Whether I am writing about cowboys, Amish families, World War II or modern-day characters, I see them all as people who experienced or are experiencing the same joys and travails people have gone through for as long as we’ve walked upright on this planet. So a Florida cowboy (THE DRIFTER) looking for a place to call home drifts across the southern United States until he stumbles upon a ranch in Arizona run by a woman. In THE LAWMAN, a prodigal son returns home to build a life and re-connect with his family and the love he left behind.  Neither is all that different from a former hedge fund investor, just out of prison looking to make a fresh start. (Hint: my next project after this Western series!) My characters struggle with similar regrets, hopes, fears and triumphs that drive the choices—good and bad—they make throughout the novel. They may live in different centuries and get around by different modes of travel, but they have a lot in common.

This belief that while the world around us changes daily (sometimes hourly), people are essentially the same in how they go through their lives is what drives my writing. I love walking down a cobblestone street or through a historic building and thinking about those who have walked there before—the choices they faced, the decisions they made.   The human spirit is a fascinating thing!!

 

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GIVEAWAY!!

Anna will give away an audio copy of THE DRIFTER (Book One of Last Chance Cowboys) to one individual who leaves a comment on this post.

 

 

 

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