western romance

Bread Pudding: From Frugal to Fancy (and a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Many dishes that are prides of the American table today once were ways to avoid wasting food. Shipping of all but basic staples didn’t begin until the latter half of the 19th century; perishables weren’t shipped at all until refrigerated containers, or “reefers,” were invented in 1869. Even then, perishable cargo could be carried only a few miles before the ice melted.

The first successful long-distance reefer transport occurred in the early 1880s. The first grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916.

Happy Cowboy ChristmasConsequently, settlers on the American frontier and American Indians used every part of the animals and plants they grew or gathered in order to avoid starvation. Frontier and farming families stewed poultry necks, tails, and wings because the meat and bones offered precious protein. Slaves in the American south prepared animal innards like chitterlings (intestines) and vegetable leavings like potato skins in a variety of ways because their masters considered those things offal. Anyone who has visited a restaurant in the past twenty years recognizes chicken wings and potato skins as trendy appetizers. At “soul food” eateries, chitlins are standard fare. (Yes, I have eaten them. No, I won’t do so again.)

Because carbohydrates offer a quick source of energy, bread, too, was a precious commodity. Many frontier families baked with cornmeal or corn flour. The latter was obtained by repeatedly pouring cornmeal from burlap sack to burlap sack and shaking loose the fine powder left clinging to the bags. Bread made with wheat flour was a treat…even though merchants in frontier towns often “extended” wheat flour by adding plaster dust. Frontier families might make a multi-day journey into town for supplies once or twice a year.

savory bread pudding

savory bread pudding

Since the early 11th century, “po’ folks” have turned stale bread into bread pudding in order to use every last ounce of food they could scrounge. Originally, the concoction was a savory main dish containing bread, water, and suet. Scraps of meat and vegetables might be added if the cook had those on hand.

What we think of as bread pudding today came into its own in New Orleans in the early 1800s. Creative cooks turned the dish into a dessert by combining stale bread with eggs, milk, spices, and a sweetener like molasses, honey, or sugar. Some also included bits of fruit, berries, and/or nuts.

My family and friends talk me into baking bread pudding each Christmas, and sometimes for other special occasions during the rest of the year. They don’t have to do much arm-twisting, because the rich dessert is easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and delicious.

bread pudding dessert

bread pudding dessert

One thing to know about bread pudding: Making it “wrong” is darn nigh impossible. Any kind of bread can be used, including sweet breads like donuts and croissants. Likewise, spices are left to the cook’s imagination, fruits and nuts are optional, and sauces are a matter of “pour something over the top.”

Through years of trial and error, I’ve created a recipe that works for me. Have fun experimenting with the basics (bread, milk, butter, and eggs) until you come up with one that works for you. I prefer mine fairly plain, but you may want to add or top with raisins (a New Orleans classic), chocolate, bananas, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, rum sauce, caramel sauce, powdered-sugar drizzle, or almost anything else you can imagine.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
(can be doubled for a crowd)

Pudding
(makes 10-12 servings)

3 large eggs
1½ cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
¼ cup bourbon
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 cups milk
1 16oz. loaf stale French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes

Heat oven to 325.

Stir together eggs, cream, granulated and brown sugars, bourbon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Place bread cubes into a lightly buttered 13×9-inch pan.

Heat milk and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until butter is melted. Do not boil.

Stir ¼ cup of hot milk mixture into egg mixture. When well-combined, slowly add remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour egg mixture evenly over bread. For a fluffier pudding, lightly press bread into egg mixture so all bread cubes are coated with the liquid. For a dense pudding, allow the pan to sit for 20 mins. before baking.

Bake for 45-55 mins., until top is browned and no liquid is visible around the edges. (The center will look soft. Don’t bother with the toothpick test—it won’t tell you anything.)

Allow pudding to stand for 20-30 mins. Top with bourbon sauce and serve.

Bourbon Sauce
(This will knock folks across the room, so be careful how much you pour on each pudding serving. 2 tsp. vanilla or other extract may be substituted for bourbon, if desired.)

1 cup heavy cream
½ Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk together corn starch and water, then add the mixture to the cream, whisking constantly.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Whisk and simmer until thickened, taking care not to scorch the cream on the bottom.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add more sugar and/or bourbon to taste.

Ladle sauce over each serving of warm-from-the-oven or room-temperature pudding.

Serve and enjoy!

 

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALBread pudding wouldn’t be on the menu in the dingy cafe on the wrong side of Fort Worth where the heroine in my latest story works. The job is a big step down from her previous life as a pampered socialite. “A Long Way from St. Louis” appears with stories from seven other authors—including filly sisters Cheryl Pierson and Tanya Hanson—in Prairie Rose Publications’ new holiday anthology, A Mail-Order Christmas Bride.

A Long Way from St. Louis
Cast out by St. Louis society after her husband leaves her for another, Elizabeth Adair goes west to marry a wealthy Texas rancher. Burning with anger when she discovers the deceit of a groom who is neither wealthy nor Texan, she refuses to wed and ends up on the backstreets of Fort Worth.

Ten years after Elizabeth’s father ran him out of St. Louis, Brendan Sheppard’s memory still sizzles with the rich man’s contempt. Riffraff. Alley trash. Son of an Irish drunkard. Yet, desire for a beautiful, unattainable girl continues to blaze in his heart.

When the debutante and the back-alley brawler collide a long way from St. Louis, they’ll either douse an old flame…or forge a new love.

Here’s an excerpt:

If the lazy beast lounging on a bench beside the depot’s doors were any indication, the west was neither wooly nor wild. As a porter took her hand to assist her from the railway car, Elizabeth Adair stared. The cowboy’s worn boots crossed at the ends of denim-clad legs slung way out in front of him. Chin resting on his chest, hat covering his face, the man presented the perfect picture of indolence.

Surely her husband-to-be employed a more industrious type of Texan.

Her gaze fixed on the cowboy’s peculiar hat. A broad brim surrounded a crown with a dent carved down the center. Sweat stains decorated the buff-colored felt. Splotches of drying mud decorated the rest of him.

Lazy and slovenly.

Pellets of ice sprinkled from the gray sky, melting the instant they touched her traveling cloak. Already she shivered. Another few minutes in this horrid weather, and the garment would be soaked through.

The porter raised his voice over the din of the bustling crowd. “Miss, let’s get you inside before you take a chill. I’ll bring your trunks right away.”

Taking her by the elbow, he hastened toward doors fitted with dozens of glass panes. Ragtag children darted among the passengers hurrying for shelter. Without overcoats, the urchins must be freezing.

She glanced around the platform. Where was her groom? She had assumed a wealthy rancher would meet his fiancée upon her arrival. Perhaps he waited within the depot’s presumed warmth. Her hope for a smattering of sophistication dwindled, but a woman in her circumstances could ill afford to be picky.

A group of ragamuffins gathered around the cowboy. As the porter hustled her past, the Texan reached into his sheepskin jacket and withdrew a handful of peppermint sticks. A whiff of the candy’s scent evoked the memory of a young man she once knew—a ne’er-do-well removed from St. Louis at her father’s insistence, and none too soon.

After depositing her beside a potbellied stove, the porter disappeared into the multitude. The tang of wood smoke drifted around her, so much more pleasant than the oily stench of coal. Peering through the throng, she slipped her hands from her muff and allowed the hand-warmer to settle against her waist on its long chain. She’d best reserve the accessory for special occasions. Judging by the people milling about the room, she doubted she’d find Persian lamb in Fort Worth unless she stooped to ordering from a mail-order catalog.

Mail-order. At least the marriage contract removed her from the whispered speculation, the piteous glances.

The shame heaped upon her by the parents she’d tried so hard to please.

Elizabeth put her back to the frigid gusts that swept in every time the doors opened, extending gloved palms toward the warmth cast by the stove.

Heavy steps tromped up behind her. Peppermint tickled her nose.

“Bets?”

A gasp leapt down her throat, colliding with her heart’s upward surge. Her palm flew to the base of her collar. Bets? Deep and smooth, the voice triggered a ten-year-old memory: If ye were aulder, little girl, I’d teach ye more than how to kiss.

She whirled to find the lazy cowboy, his stained hat dangling from one hand. Her gaze rose to a face weathered by the elements, but the blue eyes, the crooked nose…

Brendan Sheppard.

What’s your favorite holiday dessert? I’ll give an ebook copy of A Mail-Order Christmas Bride to one of today’s commenters who answers that question. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

EE Burke….The Evolution of a Saint In America: St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

I’m so grateful to Elisabeth for filling in for me (Linda Broday) today. I’m out of town so this works out great. I hope you enjoy her fabulous blog about the evolution of Santa. I find it so interesting and I think you will too. Also, get ready for SANTA’S MAIL-ORDER BRIDE that releases on Dec. 23rd. It will be available in print and ebook!! I’m so excited.

How well do you know Santa? I had to do some research about the evolution of Santa Claus in America for a brand new book–SANTA’S MAIL-ORDER BRIDE. Here’s a collage I put together of the progression.

Collage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these images were familiar to me, such as the real St. Nicholas, who truly embodies what being a disciple of Christ is all about. The Dutch brought “Sinterklaas” to colonial America. In the early 1800s, Santa devised his naughty list and hitched up the flying reindeer. And in the mid-to-late 1800s, Thomas Nast’s illustrations made the “jolly old elf” a household icon. Nast did more than 30 drawings for Harper’s Weekly, a number of those during the Civil War.

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride incorporates America’s Christmas traditions and the beloved character of Santa Claus. Just how much do you know about Santa?

 

Take this test:

Santa Claus was real person. (T or F)

The English brought Santa to America. (T or F)

A poem and an artist turned a saint into a legend. (T or F)

 

Santa Clause was a real person. True. Sort of… He started out as a 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. He is credited with numerous miracles (including bringing dead people back to life) and had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

 

bishop st. nicholas

 

The English brought Santa to America. (T or F)

False. Actually, it was the Dutch who gave Santa a ride across the ocean. Fast forward to 18th century America where immigrants from Holland brought with them the tradition of Sinterklaas, which eventually became “Santa Claus.”  Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show images of an old man in a long robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys. There are also images showing Santa as a something of a trickster in a tri-corn hat.

 

colonial dutch santa

 

A poem and an artist turned a saint into a legend. (T or F)

True. In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), gave us a mythical, mischievous Santa. 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 mere nod of his head. This is also where we pick up flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

1821 santa

 

 

We have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for developing the more familiar images of Santa Claus we cherish from Victorian times. 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, elves, and even his wife, Mrs. Claus.

Nast 1881 santa portrait

Department store Santa’s popped up at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. By the 1930s, Santa had even ventured into marketing, appearing on Coca-Cola ads.

 

coke santa

 

Yes, Santa has certainly evolved over time. But at the heart of the legend and character we find love and generosity and a special kind of magic that makes the world a better place.

 

norman santa

 

Did you know Santa was a Union man? And who doesn’t recognize the sack-toting Santa from the turn of the century? Being fully Americanized by the 1930s, Santa finally made his way into marketing…for Coca-Cola. Which of these images are familiar to you? Which one do you think best represents Santa? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Santa’s Mail-Order Bride.

 

SantasMailOrderBrideSanta’s Mail-Order Bride by E.E. Burke

 Maggie has an unexpected suitor—in a red suit

Schoolteacher Maggie O’Brien comes home for Christmas on a mission: to gather toys for orphans living on poor farms around Fort Scott. She’s made her list, but there’s no Santa in sight. Not until a local shopkeeper volunteers his services.

Gordon Sumner sets his mind on winning the black-haired Irish beauty, but Maggie’s brother is his fiercest competitor, and O’Brien’s loyal sister gives him the cold shoulder. Undaunted, he comes up with a clever plan.

Maggie sees through the fake Santa’s ploy, but with Christmas just around the corner, she’s running out of time to make the holiday happy for needy children. She accepts his help—with a plan of her own. She’ll play matchmaker and find her persistent suitor the perfect bride.

 

Teaser:

“We’ll get your orphans gifts, Miss O’Brien. I promise you.”

Her dazed expression remained, as her cheeks bloomed with color and her hands floated up to her mouth. At least she didn’t slap him.

His heart pumped liquid fire through his veins, the brief touch only whetting his appetite for more. He vowed to get a longer, deeper kiss before Miss O’Brien waltzed out of his life again, and he knew just how he would engineer it.

“You…you…” she sputtered.

“Kissed you? Yes. That’s what a man does with his wife.”

She scurried backwards, the high color draining from her face. “What are you talking about? I’m not your wife.”

“Not mine, Santa’s. You, my dear, will be Mrs. Claus.”

 

Available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/SantaBride

Find other books by E.E. Burke

http://bit.ly/AuthorEEBurke

www.eeburke.com

 

EE Burke headshotAbout E.E. Burke:

Weave together rich historical detail, passionate romance, add a dash of suspense and you have books by E.E. Burke. Her chosen settings are the American West and her upcoming release, Victoria, Bride of Kansas, is part of the unprecedented 50-book American Mail-Order Brides series. Santa’s Mail-Order Bride is the delightful sequel.

E.E.’s writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to living the dream…writing stories readers can get lost in.

 

Left Foot, Right Foot by Linda Broday

LindaBroday2Do you remember what it was like to put your foot into the wrong shoe? Young children do this all the time. I still remember how uncomfortable it felt. But did you know that up until as late as 1850 shoemakers didn’t differentiate between the left and the right? They made both shoes straight with no curve to them. I can only imagine how awful they were to wear.

Change came with the invention of sewing machines and machinery for making shoes and finally they were able to produce left and right ones.

In FOREVER HIS TEXAS BRIDE that released yesterday, Rayna Harper has such an issue with her shoes. In the beginning chapters, she makes Brett Liberty promise to give her his moccasins when they hang him for being a half-breed. Then later in the story, he buys her first pair of women’s shoes and she treasures them so much she carries them back to the boardinghouse. She won’t wear them because she doesn’t want to get them dirty. Until then, all she has are a pair of too large men’s brogans with their cracked dry leather and a hole in the sole.

ForeverTexasBridemedEach of the two previous books were special and came from the deepest part of my heart, but I’ve saved the best for last with this third and final book of the series. Brett Liberty’s story goes to the very core of who I am and what I stand for. Being a half-breed was the worst thing for a man in the 1800s because he straddled two worlds with neither claiming him. In this story, Brett faces pure hatred to the point that others want him dead. He’s never been with a woman, never known the softness of a woman’s touch or the feel of her lips on his. But when he meets pickpocket Rayna Harper in the jail cell next to him, he finds a kindred spirit. The brush of her hand is almost unbearable in its tenderness and when she curls up beside him on the narrow bunk, she curls up inside his heart. This is a story of never giving up hope and reaching for a forbidden love that others are bent on denying. It’s about how through compassion you can change people’s belief’s. Brett’s and Rayna’s deep love binds them together like a strip of the toughest rawhide and won’t let them go.

In this excerpt, Rayna thinks Brett bought her the new shoes and some new dresses because he pities her. That he sees her as a shivering mutt left by the side of the road. That makes her so mad.

Here’s the excerpt:

Her chin rose. “I understand everything now. You said you took me from the jail because you saw someone worth saving. I can save myself. I don’t need you. You’re no better than those tambourine bangers always preaching that I’m bound for hell.”

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she continued, her voice barely louder than a whisper. “You consider it your duty to care for the poor, pitiful bone-picker’s daughter.” Her lips trembled. “I can manage on my own. You can keep your pity and the fancy clothes and shoes.” She whirled and ran toward the house.

Rayna had gotten only a few steps when Brett caught her arm, halting her progress. His dark eyes glittered like stones. “Pity? Is that what you think? Lady, the last thing I feel is pity. Good God! I said what I did just now because I don’t want false pretenses between us. You deserve honesty.”

shoe3What she deserved…how about a handful of broken dreams and empty hopes? Nothing ever changed—hope and despair just repeated in one endless cycle. Over and over and over again.

She jerked free. Plopping down on the porch steps, she untied her kid leather boots and hurled one at him. He caught it with ease. Infuriated, she threw the second one. She muttered an oath when he made a left-handed catch, his dark brows knitted.

Shooting the buttery-soft footwear as well as the man holding them a glare, she raced into the house and up the stairs. By the time she made it to her room, the burning behind her eyes materialized. Silent tears trickled down her cheeks. She swept the purchases of that morning onto the floor and curled up on the bed.

She had to get out of Battle Creek. But how would she be able to leave when her heart desperately wanted to stay?

* * * *

I’m a big movie fan and, when I’m writing, I see everything unfolding in my mind like I’m watching a movie. What was the last movie you went to see and how did you like it? I’m giving a copy of FOREVER HIS TEXAS BRIDE to one person who leaves a comment.

 

Contact Links:    WEBSITE     FACEBOOK    TWITTER    PINTEREST

 

BOOK BUY LINKS:  AMAZON     B&N      iTUNES     KOBO

 

* * * * *

All Hail Texas Pecans! (and a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams headerIn Texas, pecans are a Big Deal. The trees are native to the state, and according the archaeological record, they’ve been here since long before humans arrived. When people did arrive, they glommed onto the nuts right away as an excellent source of essential vitamins (19 of them, in fact), fats, and proteins. Comanches and other American Indians considered the nuts a dietary staple, combining pecans with fruits and other nuts to make a sort of “trail mix.” They also used pecan milk to make an energy drink and thickened stews and soups with the ground meat. Most Indians carried stores of the nuts with them when they traveled long distances, because pecans would sustain them when no other food sources were available.

Pecans

Texas pecans

An individual Texas pecan tree may live for more than 1,000 years. Some grow to more than 100 feet tall.

Pecans have been an important agricultural product in Texas since the mid-1800s. In 1850, 1,525 bushels left the Port of Galveston; just four years later, the number of bushels exceeded 13,000. In 1866, the ports at Galveston, Indianola, and Port Lavaca combined shipped more than 20,000 barrels of pecans.

Nevertheless, as the state’s population exploded, pecan groves dwindled. Trees were cut to clear fields for cotton. Pecan wood was used to make wagon parts and farm implements. One of Texas’s great natural resources was depleted so quickly that in 1904, the legislature considered passing laws to prevent the complete disappearance of the pecan.

Left alone to regenerate for a couple of decades, Texas pecan groves came back bigger than ever. Until 1945, Texas trees produced more 30 percent of the U.S. pecan crop. In 1910, pecan production in the state reached nearly 6 million pounds, and the trees grew in all but eight counties. During the 1920s, Texas exported 500 railcar loads per year, and that was only 75 percent of the state’s crop. The average annual production between 1936 and 1946 was just shy of 27 million pounds; in 1948, a banner year for pecan production, the crop zoomed to 43 million pounds produced by 3,212,633 trees. In 1972, the harvest reached a whopping 75 million pounds.

Texas pecan orchard

Texas pecan orchard

During the Great Depression, the pecan industry provided jobs for many Texans. The nuts had to be harvested and shelled. Shelling employed 12,000 to 15,000 people in San Antonio alone.

The Texas legislature designated the pecan the official state tree in 1919. Between then and now, pecan nuts became Texas’s official state health food (Texas has an official health food?), and pecan pie became the state’s official pie (and my official favorite pie). Pecan wood is used to make baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring, carvings, and firewood.

Yep. Pecans have always been, and continue to be, a Big Deal in Texas—especially during the holidays. I’d be surprised if any native Texans don’t bake at least one pecan pie for either Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or both.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

The first known appearance of a pecan pie recipe in print can be found on page 95 in the February 6, 1886, issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I’ll bet Texans were baking the pies long before that, though—and I’ll bet even back then Texas pecan pies weren’t the wimpy little milk-custard-based, meringue-covered things Harper’s recommended. In Texas, we make our pecan pies with brown sugar, molasses or corn syrup, butter, eggs, a whole bunch of pecans, and sometimes bourbon.

Another thing Texans have been making with pecans for a long, long time is cinnamon-pecan cake—another treat lots of folks enjoy around the holidays. My family doesn’t put bourbon in this dessert. Instead, we pour a delicious whiskey sauce over each slice. (It occurs to me that for a passel of Baptists, my family sure cooks with a lot of liquor. See the old family recipe for muscadine wine here.)

On to the cake recipe!

 

PecanCakeCinnamon Pecan Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
Additional chopped pecans or pecan halves for topping, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beating at low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

At low speed, alternately add milk and flour mixture into sugar mixture, beating just until blended. Fold in pecans. Spread in pans. Sprinkle chopped pecans or arrange pecan halves on top, if desired.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire rack and cool completely.

 

VanillaWhiskeySauceWhiskey Sauce

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk cornstarch and water together and add to cream while whisking constantly.

Bring to a boil, whisk and simmer until thickened (taking care not to scorch the mixture on the bottom). Remove from heat.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add sugar and whiskey to adjust sweetness and flavor, if desired.

 

Folks in Fort Worth in the 1880s would’ve eaten this cake—or something very similar—during the holidays. That’s exactly when and where “A Long Way from St. Louis,” my contribution to Prairie Rose Publications’s Christmas anthology A Mail-Order Christmas Bride, takes place. The book—with stories by fellow fillies Cheryl Pierson and Tanya Hanson—bows November 27, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALHere’s a little about “A Long Way from St. Louis”:

Cast out by St. Louis society when her husband leaves her for another, Elizabeth Adair goes west to marry a wealthy Texas rancher. Burning with anger over the deceit of a groom who is neither wealthy nor Texan, she refuses to wed and ends up on the backstreets of Fort Worth.

Ten years after Elizabeth’s father ran him out of St. Louis, Brendan Sheppard’s memory still sizzles with the rich man’s contempt. Riffraff. Alley trash. Son of an Irish drunkard. Yet, desire for a beautiful, unattainable girl continues to blaze in his heart.

When the debutante and the ne’er-do-well collide a long way from St. Louis, they’ll either douse an old flame…or forge a new love.

 

So, readers… What dish—dessert, main course, side, or appetizer—absolutely must be part of your holidays? I’ll give an ebook version of A Mail-Order Christmas Bride to one of today’s commenters who answers that question. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

 

Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie! (#WFcon15)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Fellow filly Cheryl Pierson and I spent last weekend at the inaugural Western Fictioneers convention (also known as #WFcon15) in St. Louis. What a great time we had! We met some of the iconic authors in the western genre, learned more than my head can hold during seminars and panel discussions, got to sit around and gab with people we’d only spoken with online previously…and, of course, ate lots of good food. I may never eat again.

You can discover more about Western Fictioneers — a professional organization for authors of western fiction — and the convention here. If we can find Micki Milom, the superwoman who put the whole thing together single-handedly this year, we’re hoping to host another shindig next year, possibly in Fort Worth. Micki appears to have disappeared into the Convention Organizer Protection Program — a wise move on her part.

Instead of the usual post, this week I thought I’d share photos from the convention. Yes, I realize this is a bit like showing home movies to captive relatives, but I can be cruel that way.

Without further ado…

MickiAndJacquie

 

 

Take a good look at the woman on the left. You may never see her again after this convention. She’s Micki Milom, Nashville singer and songwriter, author of traditional westerns, and ramrod of the convention. Evidently, that smug expression on her face is meant to camouflage her nefarious attempt to strangle western historical romance author and all-around nuisance Jacquie Rogers.

 

 

 

Legends panel

The Living Legends panel discussion featured, from left, Robert J. Randisi, Robert (Dick) Vaughn, Dusty Richards, and Frank Roderus. Between them, the gentlemen have published thousands of stories. For such prolific, popular authors of traditional western fiction, all four men are down-to-earth, funny, charming characters (emphasis on “characters”).

 

RomancePanel_by DianeDuring the Romancing the West panel, authors (from left) Jacquie Rogers, Kathleen Rice Adams, Meg Mims, Kat Martin, and Cheryl Pierson astounded attendees with their… Well, I’m sure we astounded the audience with something, but the “something” probably was our ability to be extraordinarily silly. Couldn’t Micki have found western historical romance authors who possess at least a modicum of decorum?

Social Media panel_by Diane

 

The most evil thing about the Taming Social Media and Other Necessary Evils panel was the panelists: traditional western authors (from left) JES Hayes, that Kathleen Rice Adams person again, Jacquie Rogers (again), and Tom Rizzo.

 

PublisherPanelPublishers who specialize in western fiction also addressed the madding crowd. From left, Prairie Rose Publications editor-in-chief and co-founder Cheryl Pierson, Pen-L Publishing‘s Kimberly and Duke Pennell, High Hill Press‘s Louella Turner, Mike Bray of Wolfpack Publishing, and Golway Publishing’s Dusty Richards provided insight into what publishers look for when considering authors and their work.

 

KeithAndHunterKeith Souter, a medical doctor and popular traditional western author from the U.K., traveled all the way across the pond to present one of the most fascinating seminars during the convention — The Doctor’s Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. The presentation provided a hint of the enormous amount of material Keith covers in his newly released reference book of the same name. He was much too gentlemanly to refuse when I threatened him with a necktie party unless he autographed a copy for me. The book is a fabulous resource for anyone who writes historical fiction. I highly recommend it.

MichaelMilom

 

Intellectual property attorney Michael Milom presented one of the most popular sessions during the convention — The “Rights” Side of the Law: Legal Labyrinths. Despite his prowess as a high-powered entertainment lawyer, he quickly lost control of the rowdy herd and abandoned his planned talk in favor of answering a slew of questions from the audience. Michael, who is married to Micki, was gracious about our rude behavior, but as you can see by the metamorphosis in his expression, the lot of us probably should stay out of Nashville for a while.

 

 

There was plenty of time for fun, as well.

PRP Outlaw Gang_by JES Hayes

 

The Prairie Rose Publications gang whooped it up. (From left, Kathleen Rice Adams and Jacquie Rogers [Who are those women, and why did they keep butting in everywhere?], Keith Souter [who makes a wonderful bank robber, for a Scot], Cheryl Pierson [another outlaw who repeatedly butted in], Micki Milom, and Meg Mims.)

 

Cheryl signing book_by JES

 

 

 

Some of us, like Cheryl Pierson, autographed books. Did I autograph any books? Of course not. My ego may not survive.

 

 

MickiRandisiDuet

 

 

 

The entertainment was entertaining, especially when Micki Milom and Robert Randisi sang a couple of duets. We didn’t have to cover our ears or nothin’! (Micki’s a professional, but Bob was a surprise. He’s actually quite good.)

 

And there you have it — #WFcon2015 in a nutshell! (Most photos are mine, but thanks to JES Hayes for the image of the PRP outlaws and to Diane Rodes Garland for the image of Cheryl autographing a book.)

 

TheDoctorsBag

 

UPDATE: I’ve just received word that we kidnapped about a box-full of Dr. Keith’s The Doctor’s Bag — autographed! They’re available for $15 (including postage), which is a great deal considering the paperback version sells for $18.99 on Amazon. Cheryl Pierson has details.

 

 

A Cowboy's Touch Box 2

 

 

To thank everyone for schlepping through all this rambling, I’ll give two commenters a KINDLE COPY of a very special Prairie Rose release: A Cowboy’s Touch. The boxed set of four full-length western romance novels by Cheryl Pierson, Livia J. Washburn, Kit Prate, and me contains nearly 1,000 pages of spicy love in the Old West, and it’s a steal at 99 cents. To be eligible for the drawing, tell me which of the seminars you would have liked to attend. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

 

 

Anne McAllister Loves Cowboys–especially Jess Harper from Laramie

First I want to say thank you to all the members of the Pistols & Petticoats blog for inviting me to visit with you all today. Cowboys have been near and dear to my heart since I was five and fell in love for the first time.

The object of my affection was, of course, a cowboy. He was tall, dark and handsome (5’9″ is tall to a five-year old!).   I followed him everywhere, imprinting on him like a duck.

When he went away again, I was bereft. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a time when every other show on television was a western. I was enthralled.

I was also selective. One cowboy above all set my heart to beating faster — Jess Harper, the second in command at the stage stop on Laramie. (photo attribution to ABC Television) Jess was played by Robert Fuller who understood the finer points of playing a cowboy hero. He had the tall (well, taller than me), dark and handsome bits down pat. He had a gravelly baritone voice that still makes my ears tingle just to think about. Mostly, though, he understood that Jess had to live by his own moral code. The writers of Laramie seemed to understand this, too. It was a western ahead of its time in that respect.

I loved Jess not just because he was gorgeous in a rugged, rough-hewn way. I loved him for the choices he made. What Jess chose to do in any given situation was not always what the law decreed was proper. It was what deep down in his gut, he believed was right. And he arrived at that conclusion after a lot of soul searching. He anguished over the decisions he made.

Even as a child, I loved an anguished hero.

Anne McAllister cowoboy

Jess Harper from Laramie played by Robert Fuller Attribution to ABC Television

I wasn’t the only one. At a writers’ conference a number of years ago, I was tipping back in my chair, dozing a bit and contemplating lunch, when western historical author Jessica Douglass talked about cowboy — particularly Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza who she always fantasized was “her brother” with whom she had great adventures. But the real hero of her fantasies, she went on, was Jess Harper who was “definitely NOT her brother.”

All four legs of my chair hit the ground with the thump. Jess was two-timing me with her! I was appalled. So was she. But eventually we agreed that we both had excellent taste in men — and cowboy heroes — and that Jess was the quintessential cowboy hero.

We even spoke at the RWA National Conference on the topic of My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, because of Jess Harper whom Robert Fuller had made so real.

Preparing the talk we decided to send Robert Fuller a letter asking if he would like to comment on the character he’d played so well. Clearly a fan girl heart beats in most of us long after the cowboy has ridden off into the sunset.

One December afternoon, a month or so later the phone rang right when all the telemarketers and political pollsters in Iowa regularly ring. I was not enthused. Imagine my surprised when, instead of a pollster, a remarkably recognizable baritone said, “This is Robert Fuller.”

Believe me, inside this grown-up otherwise responsible adult mother of four, a 13 year old fan girl was hyper-ventilating.

But I managed to marshal my wits and most of my brain cells and we chatted about Jess. I was gratified to learn that he shared our view about Jess’s need to create and adhere to his own moral code. He thought it was the best role he’d ever had. He recognized and articulated his feeling about Jess’s code of honor needing to be personally arrived at. He was as passionate about it as Jess was.

Talking to him then, I realized that a Jess Harper sort of cowboy embodies what I value in all my heroes. Whether they are bull riders or CEOs, architects or archaeologists, opal miners-turned-entrepreneurs or ranchers struggling to make a living on the land they love — all McAllister heroes are at heart ‘cowboy heroes.’ They all have a personal code of honor they are trying to live up to. It isn’t always easy — in fact sometimes it causes more anguish than joy — but it’s not just a part of who they are, it’s the essence of who they are. That’s why I love them.

And I’m happy to report that I had pretty good taste when I was 13 years old!

Anne McAllister

Anne McAllister has written nearly 70 books for Harlequin, Silhouette and Tule Publishing, many of them cowboys — and all of them, at heart, no matter how they earn their living, are cowboy heroes.  
 
Presently she is hard at work on a four book series for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born imprint called Men of Hard Broke Creek due to come out in 2016.  One of them is the brother of her most recent cowboy hero, Cole McCullough, of Last Year’s Bride.
 
She has an electronic copy of Last Year’s Bride, to send to the winner chosen from among the commenters.  All you have to do to enter is tell her what appeals to you about the cowboy hero.  
 
She’d love to chat with you so stop by and visit!

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!

** ** ** ** **

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.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** **pumpkin-704626_640

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.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015