western romance

Excerpt & A Giveaway!

AutumnCooler weather, changing leaves, hot chocolate…welcome Autumn!

I grew up in southern California right along the coast where the weather varied minimally from a calm 72 degrees. I think that is why I appreciate having the four seasons in my life now that I live in the Midwest. As a child, my family would take day-trips to the back country of San Diego to hike and picnic among the falling leaves and snow. It was always fun.

My Christmas story, Dance With A Cowboy in the Wild West Christmas Anthology takes place there in the fictional town of Clear Springs in the Cuyamaca mountains. This story won the 2015 Holt Medallion Award of Merit. (And if I do say so myself–has a very sigh-worthy hero!) At the end of the excerpt you’ll find how to enter the giveaway!

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Excerpt ~ Dance With A Cowboy

Garrett held the door open and followed her out into the late afternoon light that filtered through the pines. They stood for a moment, staring at each other. He was taller than she remembered…taller than Josh. And where Josh’s nose had tilted up in a friendly fashion, Garrett’s was straight as a knife’s blade. He didn’t say a word, just turned and started down the boardwalk.

She supposed walking—and talking—would be easier than standing still and looking at each other in an awkward attempt at normality. Although her legs ached from standing all day, she fell into step. They headed away from the mill. The sound of the saw’s constant whirring lessened even as the buzz of nervous energy inside her began to build. Their footsteps grew louder on the boards, emphasizing their lack of conversation.

At the corner he stopped.

“We could sit.” He tilted his chin toward the bench in front of the hotel.

“I’d like that.” Stilted. Proper.

They crossed the street and he waited while she settled herself. He didn’t sit, but leaned against the post that supported the small overhang to the hotel’s front entrance. To anyone passing by it looked like a casual meeting, but the sharpness of his gaze belied that. She drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent of the crisp mountain air. “I’ve missed the smell of the pines. Dance With a CowboyIt’s different on the coast. Salt in the air. Brine.”

He raised his chin slightly in acknowledgement. Small lines fanned out at the corners of his eyes, yet she doubted with Garrett that the lines were from laughing.

“So you’re back.”

She nodded, pasted on a bright smile.

“Alone?”

“With my daughter.”

“Josh’s daughter,” he murmured. The lines deepened between his dark brows. “You named her Lily?”

“After my grandmother.” He should know this, she’d sent a note after the birth. “She is five now.”

“Why did you come back?”

It was more a challenge than a question. She’d been asked the same thing half a dozen times since her return, but now the answer sounded too simple, even to her own ears. “I wanted Lily to grow up here.”

He seemed to turn her words over in his mind.

She stiffened her spine. She wasn’t about to blurt out all that had really gone on—the snide comments questioning Lily’s parentage. The suggestive glances and remarks from men who thought she was lonely. Her parents’ constant disappointment in her, in Lily.

“The memories are still here,” he said.

Meaning Josh. Those memories. She relaxed slightly. “I have good memories from growing up here—the schoolhouse, swimming in the lake. It’s a good place to raise a child.”

Again, he seemed to consider her answer, looking past the surface of her words. He’d always done that, even when they’d been younger. Her gaze drifted to his lips, remembering her very first kiss and how sweet and gentle it had been. So different from his brother. She frowned, upset at the comparison. She’d come here to move on with her life, not to dwell in the past.

She stood, gathered her shawl closer around her and moved to the edge of the porch. “I’d better go. Sue is in a tizzy getting ready for the season.”

He straightened and moved away from the post. “I’ll walk you back.”

Always the gentleman. He hadn’t changed in that regard.

“It’s not necessary. I’ll see myself back to the bakery.” She started down the steps to the street.

“When can I see Lily?”

She stopped. She’d been expecting the request, but she wasn’t ready to share her daughter. “Another time.”

“I don’t get into town very often. I can wait until you’re done working.”

“No!” It came out fast—unthinkingly—without tact.

His eyes narrowed. “Do you want to explain why not?”

“I need to prepare her first.”

“Prepare her! What the heck for?”

She raised her chin. “Other than my great-aunt Molly, Lily has no idea she has relatives here.” Before he could say another word, she turned and hurried away.

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Wild West Christmas ~ Dance with a Cowboy by Kathryn Albright

Since the heroine (her name is Kathleen) has just moved back to town and has found work in the bakery I thought I’d ask the question…

What is your favorite Autumn dish or dessert?

Comment for a chance to win a free copy of Wild West Christmas today!

Please refer here for all contest rules.

Are Writers Really Poets and Liars?

Linda2015Many of us in the writing profession take our imaginations for granted. I know I do. I’ve always had it and my thoughts are as much a part of me as the beat of my heart. Without imagination to dream up great scenarios, our stories would be as riveting as a plumber’s manual.

 

But what really is imagination? Where does it come from? Any thoughts?

 

Ambrose Bierce an editorialist/journalist and short story writer in the 1800s states, “Imagination, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.”

That certainly fits.  Writers take a kernel of thought and fabricate a story around it with engaging characters and make us believe it definitely could happen.

 

stack-of-booksDavid Hume, an 18th century Scottish philosopher, became enthralled with human mental activity. He concluded that impressions in our brains are copies of actual things we have seen, felt, heard or read about. According to him we have no original thoughts. For instance – a blind person may know the word blue but he cannot associate it with an image. Therefore, he has no thought of what the color looks like. Same with a deaf person in relation to sound. According to him our ideas are nothing more than copies of impressions.

 

What! I think that’s a bunch of malarkey. What about Jules Verne’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea? Or his novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century where he describes subways, gas stations, a fax machine? What about any number of other authors who accurately portray things far before their time?

 

It makes me wonder about Divine inspiration. I think some ideas defy logic.

 

Dog ReadingHume did acknowledge that nothing is more free than the human imagination. “Our minds have the power to mix, compound, separate and divide all of our ideas into a variety of fiction and vision.” Now, there you go. I totally agree with that. We have untold avenues of creativity. I fear I’ve only tapped into a small portion of ideas that float around aimlessly in my gray matter, waiting for me to draft them into a story.

 

I don’t know about you, but all this thinking wears me out. I think I’ll relax and curl up with a generous portion of imagination in a good book.

 

On second thought, I think I’ll put some of those fat, juicy ideas to work. After all, they’re only soaking up gray matter.

 

I can lie with the best of them and make readers believe it can happen!

 

Do you have good imagination? What vivid worlds did you visit as a child? Ever have a make believe friend?

 

It’s only a short wait until FOREVER HIS TEXAS BRIDE (the third and final book of my Bachelors series) comes out on December 1st. If you haven’t read the first two of the series, you still have time. Start with book #1 TEXAS MAIL ORDER BRIDE. Click on the covers and they’ll take you to Amazon.

Mail Order Bride

Twice a Texas Bride

ForeverTexasBridemed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’d like to receive my newsletter, you can register on the home page at http://lindabroday.com/. The link is top right.

Or you can drop me an email at linda (at) lindabroday (dot) com and I’ll add you.

Barbara Ankrum and the fun research into rodeo bull riders!

Hello, my name is Barbara and I’m a rodeo fan-girl.

There, I said it. Yes, I love watching cowboys take their lives in their hands aboard those lunatic pro-bulls. (Screaming into my fists, aside.) But after agreeing to write a bull-riding hero for my next book, I realized how little I actually knew about the mechanics of the sport. I needed to do some research, which is always one of my favorite parts of writing. I’ve discovered many a good turning point through research.

Hours of YouTube marathons yielded these tidbits, for example:

* Bull riders most often use man-made barrel contraptions manipulated by a huge lever to practice on and not (for the most part) real bulls because…life and limb.

* There are coach/mentors who teach/hone bull riding technique, even to the pros. One of these ended up figuring into my story and even changed my hero’s living situation.

* The bull ‘athletes’ are respected every bit as much as the riders and are specially bred to buck. One is even crowned champion at the end of the season for big money.

Click to Buy

Click to Buy

 

* The difference between a slinger –a bull that tries to hit the rider in the head with its horns and a honker: a really ‘rank’ and difficult animal to ride.

Most intriguing was the bullrope—that woven rope/strap that goes around a bull’s chest and which the rider wraps around his gloved hand—which he must release at the end of the ride or risk getting hung up and dragged around by the arm. (The screaming into fists part.) It took a while to figure out the wrap techniques and how riders freed themselves at the end of a ride.

Traditional American bullropes, position the cowboy’s hand directly over the bull’s spine. Each time a bull bucks, the rope slides a little to the left, tightening on the cowboy’s fingers. And if the stars align badly, the cowboy is unable to release this bucking strap from his pinched fingers and he gets dangerously hung up.

Barbara Ankrum Bull rider 1Brazillian bullropes are relatively new on the scene. They appeared with the influx of Brazillian cowboys who have taken many of the top spots on the rodeo charts in the past few years. The bullrope they use is slightly different from the American one.

Their grip handle starts off center, to the right of the bull’s spine, and releases to the right, the opposite direction of the American rope, which takes the pressure off the cowboy’s hand and allows him to easily free himself, preventing hang-ups. Some U.S. rodeos have banned them, claiming they’re an unfair advantage for the Brazillians and U.S. riders who have embraced them, but the jury’s still out on whether it’s simply a smarter design or an advantage. With the high stakes money in the PBR, it’s understandable that some sour grapes linger over these ropes. But I decided to use one in my story, because it felt like a smarter choice for Finn Scott, who had two little children waiting at home for him, along with a temporary wife with commitment issues.

Barbara Ankrum bull rider hung upI loved every minute of writing CHOOSE ME, COWBOY (Part of the Montana Born Rodeo series) And for those who read last year’s, A FAIR TO REMEMBER, this book follows the second of the Canaday sisters, Kate.

I have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter here. Just tell me your favorite rodeo event!

Barbara Ankrum is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including her latest contemporary romance, CHOOSE ME, COWBOY, from Tule Publishing. Her bestselling western historical series, ‘Wild Western Hearts’ and ‘Wild Western Rogues” are available on all e-book platforms. She’s been twice nominated for RWA’s prestigious RITA Award.

Of Texas and Muscadine Wine (plus a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

In the Old West, folks couldn’t just walk into a liquor store and pick up a bottle of their favorite hooch. Some saloons and general stores sold wine and spirits by the bottle or jug, but a goodly number of people — especially those who lived on remote homesteads — fermented or distilled their own. Homemade wine was common all over the South and West, where pulpy fruits and weeds like dandelions grew in profusion.

P&P RECIPES LOGOWild muscadine and scuppernong grapes provided the base for many southern home-brews. The two varieties differ primarily in color: Muscadines are dark, from deep cherry-red to almost black; scuppernongs are green to bronze to almost white. Both are highly acidic. Failure to wear gloves while picking or mashing can leave a rash on the skin. However, the high acid content, coupled with prodigious fruit production, makes muscadines and scuppernongs excellent candidates for fermentation.

Although the muscadines and scuppernongs used in contemporary artisanal wines are cultivated like any other crop, the wild foundation stock behaved — and still behaves — much like kudzu, overgrowing everything in its path. To say the grapes are aggressive and abundant would be an understatement. The landscaping around my home can attest to that.

wild muscadine grapes (photo by Bob Peterson)

wild muscadine grapes (photo by Bob Peterson)

In fact, according to local lore, the people who owned this house in the 1920s made good use of wild muscadine grapes. They had to be sneaky about their “hobby,” though, because during Prohibition revenuers were everywhere. Reportedly, the covert libation operation was discovered when a driver lost control of his car and collided with a hastily erected addition to the house, which dutifully collapsed. Vats and vats of muscadine wine spilled into the street. I’m not sure how that worked out for the brewers, but since they were prominent citizens, I doubt anyone got in too much trouble.

The homeowners rebuilt the addition with a good deal more attention to sturdiness. I use it as an honest-to-goodness living room (as opposed to the formal living room at the front of the house) and call it “the wine cellar.”

Muscadine wine comes to the rescue of the hero in “Making Peace,” one of two short novellas in The Dumont Brand. Heroine Maggie Fannin mixes quinine with her homemade wine to treat the malaria hero Bennett Collier picked up while tramping through swamps during the Civil War.

****

The Dumont BrandHer back to him, the woman stood at a rough-hewn table against the wall on the opposite side of the hearth. Sunlight leaked through chinks in the mortar between the split logs, gleaming along a russet braid that traced a stiff backbone. A faded calico dress hung loose on a frame without softness or curves.

She turned and caught his stare in eyes the color of warm cognac. A soldier’s eyes: resigned, yet defiant; determined to go down fighting.

Levering up onto stiff arms, he braced his palms on the floor.

The woman knelt and shoved a tin cup forward. “Drink.”

His gaze dropped to the vessel for only a moment before returning to those fascinating eyes.

Her lips and brows pinched. “Drink or I’ll pour it down your throat. I didn’t nurse you through three days of the ague just to turn around and poison you.”

The rustic music he’d heard earlier underlay the sharp words. Holding her gaze, he shifted his weight, took the cup, and drew it to his lips. The sweet wine almost hid a familiar bitterness. “You found the quinine.”

Quinine—more precious than gold to any soldier who’d spent too much time in the swamps. He’d stolen the near-empty bottle. The righteous Bennett Collier, a common thief. “You went through my saddlebags.”

“I didn’t take nothin’ else. I swear it.”

He hadn’t meant the statement as an accusation. “Nothing in there worth taking.” Except the bundle of letters from his father. I miss you, son. Keep yourself alive and come home. Three years too late. He nearly choked trying to clear his throat.

He tossed back the rest of the wine. The bitter drug sharpened a pain in his chest; the sweet wine, a bitter memory. “Muscadine.”

****

Today, most home-brewers use commercial yeast and add pectic enzyme. The latter clarifies the wine and draws more color from the grapes. Typically, those who ferment wine at home also add Campden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) to kill bacteria and inhibit the growth of wild yeast.

None of those ingredients would have been available in Maggie’s rundown shack on the mainland across the bay from Galveston, so her recipe might have looked something like the one below, which I found written in tidy cursive on a yellowed slip of paper tucked into one of my grandmother’s books. I have no idea how old the recipe is or from whence it came. The comments in parentheses are mine.

Muscadine Wine

(makes 5 gallons)

5-gallon bucket very ripe (soft and starting to shrivel) muscadine grapes

12 lbs. white sugar

Spring water (or any water without chlorine)

  1. Rinse grapes. (If the grapes have been sprayed with pesticides, wash them. Otherwise just rinse. Wild yeast on the grapes’ skins and in the air, combined with sugar, causes fermentation.)
  1. Mash grapes in large (glazed ceramic) crock. (The vessel should be large enough to hold the mashed grapes and the sugar with a couple of inches of “head space” between the top of the liquid and the lip of the crock.)
  1. Add sugar. Give mash a good stirring.
  1. Cover crock with thick cheesecloth (or use a T-shirt). Tie string around lip (to hold the cheesecloth). Set in warm place.
  1. Give mash good stirring every day until stops bubbling. (The amount of yeast in the environment will determine when the mixture starts bubbling and how long the activity lasts.)
  1. Strain juice into clean (glazed ceramic) crock or churn. Add spring water to make five gallons. (Again, leave head space between liquid and rim.)
  1. Cover crock. Set in cool cellar or barn. Let sit six weeks. Strain into jars. (Knowing my grandmother, “jars” meant Mason jars. That’s how my grandfather bottled his moonshine. I’d use wine bottles, but what do I know?) Screw on lids, loose for a few days. Tighten lids, let sit six months in cellar or barn.

 

Muscadine wine

muscadine wine

I can’t vouch for the recipe because I’ve never tried it. Use at your own risk.

Home-brewing has become a bona fide trend over the past several years, so recipes and equipment for making beer, wine, and mead are everywhere. If you’d like to attempt a more modern approach to muscadine wine-making, you may want to visit this link (from Louisiana) or this one (from Kentucky).

Be aware: Unlike in 19th-century America, today’s federal government and all U.S. states have laws governing the production of alcoholic beverages for personal consumption. According to the federal Internal Revenue Code, home-brewers may produce 200 gallons of beer or wine per calendar year if there are two or more adults residing in the household; 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one adult residing in the household. If they produce more, they must pay federal taxes on the overage.

State regulations vary widely. In Texas, for example, the head of a household or an unmarried adult living alone may produce 200 gallons of wine, ale, malt liquor, or beer per year. Those who wish to produce more — or do so “accidentally” — not only owe state taxes in addition to federal tax, but also must acquire a license.

 

The Fake Ghost Who Started a Real Religion

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Once upon a time in a farmhouse in Hydesville, New York, there lived two sisters who loved to scare family and friends with their vivid imaginations. One day in late March 1848, the girls told a neighbor about spooky happenings in their bedroom. Eager to disprove the girls’ claims that the ghost of a murdered traveling salesman inhabited their home — a tale with which they’d already terrified their mother — the neighbor accompanied fourteen-year-old Maggie Fox and her eleven-year-old sister Kate into their bedroom … where the neighbor, too, was dutifully terrified by the apparently sentient wall-rapping in response to the girls’ questions.

The old fox cottageThus began a religion known as Modern Spiritualism, which is still practiced today.

After having their worst fears seemingly confirmed, the Fox family abandoned the farmhouse, sending Maggie and Kate to live with their older sister, Leah Fox Fish, in Rochester, New York. That may not have been the wisest decision. Rochester was a hotbed of religious activity. Mormonism and the movement that later became Seventh Day Adventism both saw their genesis in the Rochester area.

Upon hearing the tale of the murdered salesman and the unearthly sounds, a group of Rochester residents examined the Fox homestead and found strands of hair and bits of bone in the basement. At a subsequent community meeting, the girls were put to the test: Could they communicate with the dead in Rochester, too?

fox-sisters

The Fox sisters: Left to right: Leah (1814–90), Kate (1838–92), and Maggie (1836–93)

The girls proved they could by summoning raps on the floor. In addition, Leah seemed to communicate with one community leader’s deceased daughter. All three Foxes were escorted into a private room after the demonstration, where they disrobed and were examined for any hints of duplicity. None were found.

Word of the sisters’ uncommon abilities reached Andrew Jackson Davis, later to become known as “John the Baptist of Modern Spiritualism.” Davis claimed to have received a Divine message on the very day the Fox sisters first channeled spirits on the family farm. In response to the dreary Calvinist teachings of the day, people could not wait to adopt a new spiritualism that taught each individual was the master of his own salvation. The spirits of those who had passed on were there to guide them to their ultimate fate, as they, in turn, would guide those who came after them.

The Fox Sisters embarked on a tour of New England and the Midwest, demonstrating their abilities to notables including newspaperman Horace Greeley, author James Fennimore Cooper, and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. Many accused the girls of perpetrating a hoax, but a growing number of people, convinced by the knocking and apparent communication with dead relatives, embraced the Spiritualist movement.

In 1857, Maggie married explorer Elisha Kent Kane, a man thirteen years her senior who, though he reportedly loved her to distraction, insisted she was a fraud. He died an untimely death shortly after the wedding. Maggie began drinking heavily and abandoned Spiritualism to honor his memory. Kate married a devout Spiritualist leader and continued to develop her skills as a medium, including the use of blank cards upon which messages from the Beyond seemed to appear magically. Among the hazy apparitions she allegedly summoned was Benjamin Franklin’s.

tablelev

The Fox sisters demonstrate their ability to levitate a table (1850).

By the end of the Civil War, more than two million believers had converted to Spiritualism; by 1880, adherents grew to more than eight million.

In 1888, Maggie received $1,500 to tell her story in front of a large audience at the New York Academy of Music. By then doing her best to live a life of sobriety, Maggie confessed to the hoax that started the mass hysteria.

“My sister Katie and myself were very young children when this horrible deception began,” the New York World reported. “At night when we went to bed, we used to tie an apple on a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound.”

The sisters soon discovered they could manipulate their knuckles, toes, and other joints to make a variety of unusual sounds. Maggie demonstrated by removing her shoe, placing her foot on a small stool, and producing “rapping” noises

“A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them,” Maggie said. “It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street, and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: ‘I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.’ Of course that was pure imagination.”

Spiritualists quickly split on the matter, one camp saying Maggie was a true medium who had been consumed by spirits intent on deceiving humanity, and the other claiming she had sold out her religion because, as a poor widow, she needed the money.

Fox1

The Fox sisters conduct a seance in New York (ca. 1855)

Leah, a popular medium in New York City, disowned her younger sister. Kate hit the bottle with increasing frequency and enthusiasm. The sisters never reconciled, even after Maggie recanted her confession a scant year after she embarrassed the family.

Leah, embittered by her sister’s betrayal, died in 1890. Kate died two years later while on a drinking binge. Maggie followed eight months later, in March 1893. Later that year, the diverse Spiritualist groups came together to found the National Spiritualist Association, the forerunner of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, which exists today.

Postscript: In 1904, a group of children discovered what appeared to be a skeleton among the ruins of the abandoned and crumbling Fox homestead. A doctor who examined the bones estimated they had been in the basement for about fifty years. Although the find lent some credence to the Fox sisters’ tale about the murdered salesman, the media and society at large continued to scoff at Spiritualists.

Five years later, another doctor examined the bones and pronounced them a clear attempt to defraud. The alleged skeleton was composed of bits and pieces from several bodies, including those belonging to chickens and other animals.

The Fox homestead burned to the ground in September 1955. A marker now stands on the spot where Modern Spiritualism was born:

Upon this site stood the Hydesville Cottage
The home of the Fox Sisters
Through whose mediumship communication
with the Spirit World was established
March 31, 1848
THERE IS NO DEATH
THERE ARE NO DEAD

 

The dearly departed who refuse to depart cause problems for the hero and heroine in “Family Tradition,” one of two related stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts. The book releases Friday, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.com.

 

RBSH_3D_200x300_shadowEveryone 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.

The Worst Outlaw in the West
Laredo Hawkins has one ambition: to redeem his family’s honor by pulling the first successful bank robbery in the Hawkins clan’s long, disappointing history. Spinster Prudence Barrett is desperate to save her family’s bank from her brother’s reckless investments. A chance encounter between the dime-novel bandit and the old maid may set the pair on a path to infamy…if either can find a map.

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?

Have you ever encountered a ghost? Tell us about it in the comments! I’ll give an E-BOOK of Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts to one of today’s commenters.

 

It’s All In the Detail by Paula Altenburg

Paula 1a

Settings are something that, in a story, are a crucial element, and part of the reader’s sensory experience, but for the most part should be unobtrusive. You want the reader to feel as if they’re in the same time and place as the characters, but you don’t want the setting details to overshadow the story.

Don’t ask me how this happened, but over the past four or five years I’ve found myself firmly planted in the American West. I’ve written Demon Westerns in a dystopian future. I’ve got a paranormal “Cowboys and Aliens” alternate history story coming out soon.  And my current release, Her Secret Love (#3 in the Secrets of Cherry Lake series from Tule Publishing), is a contemporary romance set on the shores of Flathead Lake, Montana. (Check out those images. My husband wants us to move there.)

I’m fairly confident my love affair with the West began the same way as that of most western romance fans—by reading Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. (How can those author names not appeal to romance readers?)My father recently gave me his entire Louis L’Amour collection—heaven. I tell him they’re Harlequin romances for men. I mean, come on. There’s always a strong woman character who needs a helping hand from the hero, but who can ultimately stand on her own.

The problem for me as a writer, however, is that I’m seriously setting-challenged. I’m an abstract thinker and not at all visual. I can’t read a map. (I once wrote an entire book with the locations upside down and backward from what they are in reality. So far, no one’s noticed.)Descriptive details bore me. And I live on the East Coast of Canada, surrounded by the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean. We have a large dairy industry here, but if you try to compare our farms to Montana ranches…no.

This is what my world looks like:

 

paula 2

Paula 3

 

Here’s my personal experience with the American West:
Paula 1paula 2

 

 

And in my head, here’s what I think the West looks like:Paula5

Paula 6

 

Mix those with the chase scenes from Mad Max: Fury Road and I’m sure you can understand the challenge I face.

There are details about the world we each live in that, in our heads, are universal truths, but in reality, are anything but. When my youngest son began university, we took a few of his friends from Oman to see Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. They kept asking if we could stop the car so they could explore the boggy wetlands that surround the Atlantic beach areas here. They live in the desert. They’d never seen wetlands before.

Cherry Lake, Montana might be a fictional town, but the location is not. Every time I had a bird chirp in Her Secret Love, I had to look up what kind of bird it might be. The trees are different. The grass is different. I had no idea what the seasons might be like. They turn at different times from what I’m used to. Sunrise and sunset aren’t the same. Not to mention, school starts so much earlier in Montana than it does here.

There are four books and one novella in the Secrets of Cherry Lake series.  (Small Town Secrets is free on Amazon.com if anyone wants to check out the series.) That’s four authors who all had to coordinate setting details for the town and its inhabitants. We were lucky in that one of our authors, Jeannie Watts (The Secret Bride), is actually from the area. She’s the Tule Publishing resident expert on All Things Cherry Lake.

Writing this series was a lot of fun. Creating Cherry Lake was a great learning experience, too. I hope to write more stories in this particular setting.

Cinderella's CowboyAnd I hope readers will enjoy the Secrets of Cherry Lake as much as we enjoyed writing about them.

Giveaway:

If you want to learn more about the Montana Born books offered by Tule Publishing, I’m giving away an e-copy of Cinderella’s Cowboy by USA Today Bestselling author Roxanne Snopek:

Sometimes princes look a lot like cowboys…

Chad Anders doesn’t know why mousy Cynthia Henley trips all over her tongue when she’s around him. Nor does he understand his undeniable attraction to this good girl. Wild and sexy is his type, like the dream-girl he caught a glimpse of years earlier he’s never forgotten.

Cynthia’s superpower is invisibility, especially with men. It’s better for everyone that way. Besides, she’s got a cat. She’s okay. But when playboy-rancher Chad hires her, she’s got a chance to shine. Professionally, at least. Until she learns of his fascination with a mysterious dream-girl, who was actually nothing more than a shy teenager on an ill-advised dare all those years ago. Cynthia knows she’s no man’s dream-girl and never will be.

But there’s magic at the ball. Princesses glow in the starlight, princes appear out of nowhere, and, sometimes, they look a lot like cowboys…

 

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1887 Lever-Action Shotgun

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By the late 19th century, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was well known for their lever-action firearms. Though designer John Browning—who designed most of the lever-action rifles that “won the west”—recommended the new shotgun be pump-action, Winchester management wanted to capitalize on their previous success. Early brand recognition!  The result?  The Winchester Model 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun. [That’s mine, a reproduction, pictured above.]

That brand recognition even extends into modern-day Hollywood — Arnold Schwarzenegger carried a Model 1887 in The Terminator.

The Model 1887 loads from the top or breech (picture on right). It had a magazine tube that would hold six shells plus one IMG_0077more in the chamber. Patterned after their lever action rifles, the shotgun lever design included an internal safety innovation that minimized the possibility of accidentally firing: the firing pin cannot strike the primer of the shell until the breech block is completely closed. That means the shot will go down the barrel and not up into the shooter’s face.

IMG_0078
The lever is exactly that—a lever. [See picture on the left] Opening it or pushing it down ejects the spent shell and moves another shell from the tube into firing position.

When a man or woman could carry multiple weapons that used the same cartridges, that meant more variety of firearms and less weight in lead to haul around. Winchester produced lever-action rifles that could fire several pistol-caliber cartridges (from right to left in the picture): .32-20, .38-40 & .44-40, all worked in FullSizeRenderthe Model 1873 rifle; and they made the Model 1886 rifle to use higher powered big game cartridges like the .45-70, the original “buffalo” cartridge.

Since shotgun shells of the time used black powder, the Model 1887 was designed and chambered for these less powerful shotshells. And, while both 10 and 12-gauge model 1887s were offered [two left shells above, respectively], it was quickly realized the 1887 wasn’t strong enough for the more powerful smokeless powder shells. That prompted a redesign that resulted in the Model 1901—but that’s another blog.

Here’s a short video showing how the Model 1887 breech-loading rolling block lever-action shotgun functions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE9WD9Fihks

And, of course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9SpHLyZuP0

Tracy Garrett

PRPTracy Garrett Duo Web

 

 

Available Now ~ “A River’s Bend Duo,” featuring two short stories, WANTED:  THE SHERIFF & NO LESS THAN FOREVER.

Black Jack Ketchum: An Outlaw Meets a Gruesome End

Kathleen Rice Adams header

“Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp, and I don’t aim to be late.” —Black Jack Ketchum

"Black Jack" Ketchum as a young man. (Image: University of New Mexico)

Black Jack Ketchum as a young man. (Image: University of New Mexico)

Whether or not he aimed to be late, Thomas Edward “Black Jack” Ketchum missed the dinner bell by more than an hour on April 26, 1901. In fact, his original 9 a.m. appointment on the gallows was delayed by more than four hours while authorities tried to ensure Ketchum’s execution was both humane and permanent.

They got the permanent part right.

Ketchum, the youngest of five children, was born in San Saba County, Texas, on Halloween 1863. His father, a prosperous farmer, died when Black Jack was five years old; his mother when he was ten. Because the family’s property went to the eldest son, Black Jack and his other brother, Sam, made their living cowboying in Texas. The work never suited either of them. By 1890, both had left the state.

By 1892, they were robbing trains.

Together with a gang of other young men—all of whom were described as well-mannered and well-dressed, riding good horses, and flashing plenty of money—between 1892 and 1899 the Ketchum gang liberated payrolls and other large sums of cash from trains passing through the Four Corners area of the Southwest. In 1895 and 1896, the gang included Kid Curry and his brother Lonnie Curry, who reportedly departed after a dispute over the division of proceeds from a holdup.

(Image: Herzstein Memorial Museum, Union County, New Mexico)

(Image: Herzstein Memorial Museum,
Union County, New Mexico)

In 1897 alone, the Ketchums heisted more than $100,000: $42,000 from a Wells Fargo safe outside Langtry, Texas, in May and another $60,000 in gold and silver near Twin Mountain, New Mexico Territory, in September.

Two years later, in July 1899, Sam Ketchum partnered with Wild Bunch members Will Carver and William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay to rob the Twin Mountain train a second time. A posse chased the outlaws into Turkey Creek Canyon near Cimarron, New Mexico, where Sam was wounded in a shootout. He died of his wounds in Santa Fe Territorial Prison a few weeks later.

In August 1899, unaware of his elder brother’s fate, Black Jack lost his right arm to a shotgun blast fired by the conductor of a train he attempted to rob alone. “The handsome train robber” didn’t resist when either a posse or a railroad crew (there’s a dispute) found him near the tracks the following morning.

At trial, Ketchum was sentenced to hang, but the date of execution was delayed several times by arguments about where final justice should take place, since several towns wanted the honor. Finally, reacting to a rumor that the old gang planned to break Black Jack out of jail, the hanging became the center of a carnival in Clayton, Union County, New Mexico. Despite an extended debate about the length and strength of the rope necessary for the deed, something went horribly wrong.

"Black Jack" Ketchum, center. (Image: National Archives)

Black Jack Ketchum, center. (Image: National Archives)

Shortly after 1 p.m., the scaffold’s trapdoor opened and Ketchum, 37, plunged through. He died instantly, decapitated by the fall.

Black Jack Ketchum bears the dubious distinction of being the only man sentenced to die in New Mexico for “felonious assault upon a railway train.” Apparently his botched execution set the residents of Union County back a mite, because Black Jack also was the only man ever hanged in Union County. Until serial murderer Eva Dugan suffered the same fate at the Pinal County, Arizona, prison in 1930, Black Jack Ketchum was the only person in the U.S. who literally lost his head to a hangman’s noose ordered by a court.

****

No train robberies or grisly executions take place in the Civil War-era duet The Dumont Brand, although the hanging of a cattle rustler in her past plays a role in one heroine’s present. The book, which contains two stories about two brothers, debuted July 24. It’s the first in a trilogy about a Southeast Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons than you can shake a stick at in its closets. Links and excerpts are on my website.

Here’s the blurb, and below that is a video trailer.

The Dumont BrandThe Civil War burned Texas…and fanned the flames of love.

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until one son finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

Welcome Guest Cheryl St. John!!!

SEQUINSandSPURS9780373298433Howdy to all the Fillies and everyone at Wildflower Junction! I always enjoy seeing what everyone’s been up to and learning about all the new books. If you’re thinking there was a stretch of time between my last western romance and now, you’re right. I worked on a few other projects and I took about a year off. Now I’m excited to have a new release to share with you.

Take a sexy cowboy, a spirited wild-haired beauty, horses, kids and an orphan and mix them with betrayal, hope, compassion and a steamy romance, and we have Sequins and Spurs.

My working title for this story was Song of Home, because my heroine, Ruby Dearing, is a singer. I worked in a few songs appropriate to the year, which was fun. Ruby ran away from home at a young age, learned that life on the road wasn’t all that glamorous, and returns to the Nebraska farm where she was born to beg forgiveness of her family. There’s an unexpected flaw in her plan: There’s no one left to forgive her.

Forgiveness and second-chances often play a big part in my stories, and this time it’s about accepting the fact that sometimes forgiveness is not forthcoming. It’s also about being able to forgive oneself.

botanical_album_quiltI happen to love Pinterest. I create an inspiration board for each story, where I keep track of research, likenesses to portray characters, clothing, and visual details of the story. You can see the board for this story here.

Among those pictures you’ll see a vintage quilt. Ruby’s mother had a quilt that reminds Ruby of good times. Ruby learns to make quilt blocks out of old clothing. Recently my husband and I got to see the Homefront and Battlefield Quilts and Context in the Civil War, before it returned to the textile museum in Lowell Pennsylvania, where the display items were sent back to their original locations. It was amazing to gaze upon those hand-sewn pieces of history sewn by wives and mothers of soldiers, some made for their men, others for auctions to raise money for supplies. They are pieces of family history that have become the threads of our nation’s history.

I’m giving away a digital copy of Sequins and Spurs to one person who leaves a reply one of these two questions today:

  1. Is there a quilt in your family that embodies history—or have you made a quilt for family members that will become an heirloom?
  2. What’s the most thought-provoking thing you’ve ever seen in a museum?

Thanks for stopping to chat!

photo for website

 

Cheryl St. John is the award-winning author of fifty Harlequin and Silhouette books, which include historical romance as well as contemporary. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.”

Cheryl enjoys hearing from readers. Email her at SaintJohn@aol.com.
Find her online at:
Website: CherylStJohn.net
Blog: From the Heart
Facebook author page

 

JODI THOMAS: THE OLD BUTTON TIN

Jodi Thomas Author PicThis month my 41st novel (not counting 14 novellas) comes out and I’m excited.  A new series!  The best and deepest I’ve ever written.  RANSOM CANYON

 

Like most writers I get the same question again and again.  “Where do your ideas come from?”

 

Sometimes I have no idea where the seed of an idea started to grow in my mind.  But, then I get out Grandma Kirkland’s button box….

 

Button TinWhen I was little, her big box of buttons always fascinated me.  I played with it for hours.  Now, in an upstairs room off my office, I gather the grandkids (6,5,4,2) around the old sewing machine.  They all get excited as I open the box and let each one pick a button.  Old rusty ones, bright diamond bling, tiny pearl ones, some still have tiny pieces of fabric connected from worn out clothes.

 

Then as each shows his or her button, I tell the story of where it came from. 

 

Winter's CampThat was your great uncle Austin’s button. He was called Wildhorse and had three ships shot out from under him during World War 2.

 

That pearl one belonged to Mema Bailey.  She went to church every time the door was open and died at 92 still singing hymns.

 

That metal one belonged to a pirate who sailed the Galveston coast and buried his gold on Pelican Island.  Some say the tree he was hanged from was the very site where he buried his loot, but no one dares go near it because his ghost haunts the place.

 

That silver one is magic.  Just holding it for a minute will make you talk backward.  Now it’s time to say, “Night Good.”

 

And on and on we go.  With all the games and videos downstairs, they still love the old button box.

 

Ransom CanyonI’ve often said creativity is a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger it gets.  I’ve been in the gym of my mind working out all my life.

 

The idea for RANSOM CANYON came from living in the Texas Panhandle.  I wanted to write about the real west of today.  I wanted my people to be like the men and women I grew up with, honest and true.  Not the cowboy on a book cover who has never been on a horse, but the cowboy who gets up at five to load his own horse and make it to the ranch before dawn.  He doesn’t work by the hour, but by the day.

 

As I began my first book in the series, Staten Kirkland jumped off the page.  He’s strong and good, a rancher everyone looks up to, but he’s broken and only one woman can calm his heart.

 

So come along with me on a series set in today’s West.  You’ll love it.

 

By the way, if you have a Button Box or Jar or Tin, tell me about it.  You might win a copy of the first book of RANSOM CANYON. Meanwhile, WINTER’S CAMP is free to download at these links:  AMAZON        B&N

 

MANY STORIES TO YOU ALL.

 

Jodi Thomas

www.jodithomas.com

 

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015