If you happen to live in West Texas, I’d love to see you this weekend. I’ll be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in the South Plains Mall in Lubbock. And the extra cool thing is that Jeff and Kristie Gilliam (the couple who I met in that same store in 2016 and who I named a character after in More Than Meets the Eye) will be there, too. Should be fun!
I’m down to the last week before my deadline and things are crazy! However, as any professional writer will tell you, we’re never just thinking about one project. We are writing one while marketing another. We are working on edits for a third a researching plot ideas for a fourth. Thankfully, I’m only juggling three of those balls instead of all four this week, but it still requires a mental dexterity that can be as taxing as it is exciting.
Next week I will turn in my current manuscript and start work on the next project – one that took me to Gainesville, TX last week to research their wonderful history in person. My story will feature a Harvey Girl heroine working at the newly opened Harvey Lunch Counter in 1902 Gainesville, TX. The people of Gainesville have done a fabulous job of preserving their history, and last week I blogged about walking the very halls of the Santa Fe Depot that my character will. You can find that blog here.
Today, I thought I’d share some of the other wonderful finds I discovered in Gainesville. Not only did I need to know what the lunch counter and depot were like, but I needed to learn about the city itself, and I found a treasure trove. Gainesville has numerous preserved homes from the late 1890s and early turn of the century, the era that I will be writing about.
We took a driving tour of the town, and I took lots of pictures. These are my top 8 houses. The hero in my story is going to have a slightly snobbish mother who looks down on the heroine, viewing a waitress as not only being beneath her son’s station as a lawyer and wealthy rancher’s heir, but as a morally loose woman as well. Which of these houses do you think such a woman would live in?
If YOU were going to live in one of these houses, which would you choose?
I’m so excited to have the chance to share Logan and Evangeline’s story with you. I’ll be sending you an email with instructions on how to claim your prize, so keep your eyes peeled. A rollicking western adventure is on it’s way!
More Than Meets the Eye is the first book in a new series. Each time I start a new project, there is an excitement that comes with getting to know a fresh group of characters, but there is also a pressure to make these characters unique. A challenge that gets increasingly difficult the more books I publish.
The premise behind my new Patchwork Family series is a group of orphans who bond to form their own family when their orphan train derails. These youngsters were overlooked, discarded, and unwanted by the families they met along their journey. Zach, because he is a belligerent loner with a giant chip on his shoulder. Seth, because he is sickly, weakened by asthma. But how could I make my cheerful, tenderhearted Evangeline undesirable to adoptive families?
That’s when I thought of cats. No, I wasn’t going to give her claws. But what about mismatched eyes? Psychologists will tell you that at a subconscious level, humans crave symmetry. It’s why certain faces are universally more attractive than others. When that symmetry is out of balance, it creates cognitive dissonance in the human brain. In our effort to explain away this discomfort, we place blame on the cause, calling it unnatural or even something darker like witchcraft. The greater the dissonance, the greater the reaction. So, I didn’t simply give my heroine slightly different colored eyes, I made them drastically different. One dark brown and one vividly blue. These are the heterochromatic eyes that I patterned Evangeline’s after.
Evangeline grows up with constant rejection, yet she maintains her optimism and cheerful disposition. At least when she’s around her brothers. And when she meets Logan, a mysterious stranger with a hidden agenda, she finally finds a man who sees the woman behind the mismatched eyes.
Here’s a short excerpt from the initial meeting between Logan and Evangeline. Logan has just attempted to rescue Evie from what he believed to be a wild boar. In actuality, the hog is Evie’s pet.
“Since you’re new to the area, you might not be aware that you’re on Hamilton land.” Evangeline crossed her arms over her chest. Lifted her chin. Widened her stance. “My brothers won’t begrudge you snaring a rabbit or even taking down a deer if you’re in need of nourishment, but we don’t take kindly to squatters.”
His lips quirked again.
What was it about her trying to act mean that made men grin? It was quite annoying. Evangeline frowned at him.
His smile widened. “I’m aware of the boundaries. My camp is east of your property line.”
“But you’re not.” She unfolded her arms and poked him in the chest.
He stared at her finger then pointed his own and nudged it against her shoulder. “Because I was trying to save you from being gored by a wild boar.”
“One that wouldn’t actually hurt me.”
“That’s debatable.” The man folded his arms and looked down his nose at her. “Even without tusks, that thing could do serious damage if riled.”
“Then you best not rile him.” Evangeline gave a sassy wave of her head, as if she could order Hezzy to attack at any moment. The only damage her pet would likely render involved non-lethal pig slobber and a head butt that might manage to knock the fellow off-balance. But something told her this man wouldn’t be bowled over too easily. . .
“Thank you, by the way.” Evangeline met his gaze, smiling even broader when he blinked in confusion. “For your heroic rescue.” She dipped her chin. “Just because your actions were unnecessary doesn’t mean they’re not appreciated.”
He cleared his throat and shifted his weight. “You’re welcome.” His voice tapered up at the end, making the statement sound more like a question, but Evangeline chose to interpret it as a successful change of direction anyhow.
“You have a lovely horse.” She stepped to the side and twisted, letting her skirt twirl about her just a little. She’d never been good at standing still. The rhythmic twisting, even in small doses, calmed her growing nerves.
Now that the initial excitement of the discovery, chase, and tackle had subsided, she was becoming acutely aware of the fact that she was alone with a man.
A man who actually treated her like a woman. Not a sister. Not a freak of nature with unnatural eyes. But an ordinary, normal, woman.
“He’s very handsome,” she said. “Your horse.” The horse’s owner qualified for that descriptor, too. That wavy dark brown hair escaping from beneath his hat to curl over his collar. Gray eyes that had softened from steel to the color of fluffy storm clouds that projected the possibility of trouble but also offered shade. Tall. Strong. A little rough around the edges. “And friendly, too.”
The man before her mumbled something beneath his breath about horse sense not being what it used to be, but Evangeline chose to let that bit of cynicism go without comment.
In honor of More Than Meets the Eye’s release, I’ll be giving away autographed copies (US addresses only) to three winners drawn from those who leave comments on this post. Winners will be announced on Thursday, June 7.
Back in April, I attended a writing retreat in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun and great writerly conversations. But thanks to a reader’s recommendation, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a little side journey to Mansfield, MO. When I discovered that the home where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote the Little House books was only an hour away, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to visit.
I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television series. It is because of Laura’s books and others like them that I became so enamored with historical fiction. Getting to actually walk through the house that Almanzo built for Laura, to see the room where their daughter Rose slept as a girl, to see the small desk where Laura sat to write her novels . . . it gave me chills.
The tour guide took us through the house in the order that it was built. It started as two rooms and expanded over the years to contain three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, music room, small library, and front parlor. Laura and Almanzo both lived into their 90’s, and the caretakers have kept their house almost exactly as they left it upon their deaths. There were several lamps that Almanzo made by hand along with chairs and other furnishings. They wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside the house, but I bought a few postcards to help me remember.
This the back of the house where the tour began. There is a screened off porch leading to the kitchen, a narrow ladder staircase that led to Rose’s childhood bedroom upstairs, and the dining room just past the kitchen.
Front of the house. This is the section built on in later years . If you walk up the steps, you will enter the front parlor. The library will be in a little walled alcove behind the fireplace on the left and the music room will be down the hall to the right. There is also a doorway to the right before the music room that led to Laura’s writing desk, her and Almanzo’s bedroom, and a staircase to a guest room on the second floor where Rose would often invite her New York friends to stay when they needed a break from city life.
Rose Wilder Lane was a successful writer well before her mother decided to pen the stories of her life. Rose published several novels and wrote for many popular magazines. She traveled extensively in Europe and made quite a nice living for herself. So in 1928 before the stock market crash that would send the country into an economic crisis, Rose decided to build her parents a new house. She purchased it from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and hired an architect to make a few structural changes. They called it The Rock House because Rose had it fashioned like an English stone cottage. It was less than a mile from their farm at Rocky Ridge. Laura and Almanzo moved to the Rock House and stayed there for eight years. But in 1936 when Rose decided to move back to New York, the Wilders moved back to their beloved farm house. As much as they appreciate their daughter’s gift, the Rock House just wasn’t home.
Back at Rocky Ridge, we had the opportunity to visit a wonderful museum filled with artifacts from Laura’s life including her Pa’s fiddle and original manuscripts. There were notes in the margins where Rose had obviously given her mother editorial advice, and no doubt Rose’s connections with the publishing world in New York opened doors for her mother that Laura would never had been able to open for herself, but seeing those manuscripts in Laura’s own handwriting made it abundantly clear in my mind that those who claim Rose was the true author of the Little House stories are mistaken.
The final place we visited was the small community cemetery where the Wilders are laid to rest. Having seen their lives portrayed on television and in novels made them seem larger than life. Yet seeing their graves made it truly sink in that they were real people, living real lives. What an amazing adventure they shared.
So, if you ever happen to travel through Missouri, do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours in Mansfield with this amazing family.
Did you grow up reading the Little House books?
Did you watch the TV show?
Besides Laura, who was your favorite Little House character?
Tomorrow I leave to join a group of writer friends in Branson, MO for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It’s going to be fabulous. No only are we renting a house that has antique writing desks in every bedroom (the owner is a writer, herself!) but we will be filling the creative well with brainstorming sessions, quiet writing time, and play time, too.
On Friday night we are going to see the live production of Samson at the Sights and Sounds Theater.
On Saturday, we are participating in a Meet & Greet at the Taneyhills Library. We will be participating in a Christian Fiction Panel Discussion and interacting with readers – always a joy.
If you happen to be in the Branson area, we would love to have you come by.
On Sunday, thanks to a reader’s recommendation, a few of us plan to drive an hour to Mansfield to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder farmhouse and museum. This is the location where she and Almanzo lived out their later years and where Laura wrote all of the Little House on the Prairie books.
I’m so excited by the prospect of seeing Laura’s home and learning more about the woman who wrote the stories that inspired my love of pioneering the west. I grew up reading her books and faithfully watched every episode of the television series. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to see this!
As it turns out, the city of Branson itself evolved into a tourist haven because of a book. The Shepherd of the Hills was published in 1907. The book was written by Harold Bell Wright, a young minister who had spent extensive time visiting the Ozarks in southern Missouri near the Branson area. This story of mountain folklore and forgiveness became extremely popular. Almost overnight, tourists started flocking to Branson – the now famous Shepherd of the Hills area. The book has been made into a feature film four times – the most famous iteration staring everyone’s favorite cowboy – John Wayne.
Have you ever visited a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum? I think there are a couple across the midwest.
If you were to ask me to describe my ideal getaway, I would describe a picturesque log cabin in a mountain forest. Beautiful walking paths through the woods. A babbling stream nearby. Perhaps even a waterfall within hiking distance. The cabin itself would be cozy. Lots of wood features and fuzzy blankets with western/antique decor. But my practical side insists on having the Internet (pretty essential for a writer). And since I’ve never really been much of a “roughing it” type camper, I would prefer it have all the modern amenities. Let’s give it a hot tub, too, while we’re at it.
You see, if I’m going to have cabin fever, I want it in the best possible way. I want to create a place so cozy and comfortable that I won’t want to leave. So, I decided to go online and do some research, and I think I found the log cabin that I would be glad to be stranded in.
The home is called Pine Haven, and it was designed by Teton Heritage Builders. If you feel the urge to drool, you should definitely check out their website. There’s plenty of room in this cabin if anyone would like to join me for a feverish getaway.
(All photos credited to Roger Wade Photography)
Love those wood beams and chinking.
Main living area – gorgeous windows to let in natural light and an astounding view.
Master bedroom with fireplace and balcony – so romantic!
Upstairs hall with so much light and fun look-overs.
Bedroom for my guest – that’s you!
Gorgeous kitchen with all the amenities. Might as well have good food while we’re stuck here.
And since everyone knows that the best way to deal with cabin fever is to get lost in a great book, I’m handing out a dose of cure today. Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of Short-Straw Bride, a book featuring a secluded cabin in the Piney Woods of Texas housing four brothers who never leave their land. Until the right woman comes their way.
So what do you think? Want to share some cabin fever with me at Pine Haven?
How would you describe your ideal place to get cabin fever? (An actual cabin is not required.)
Yesterday, my latest novella collection released. It’s always fun to see a new book launch into the world of readers, but this one took a bit of a crooked path.
First off, I have to say how much I love the lacy cover. It has such a feminine, antique feel. And this is one time where I believe keeping the cover model’s face a mystery is a good thing since there are three different stories with three different heroines in the volume.
Second, I love being in a collection with Jody Hedlund and Elizabeth Camden. Both of these ladies are colleagues and friends. In fact, Jody and I signed with Bethany House at the same time and have been close ever since.
Now for the crooked path part. Each of the three novellas in All My Tomorrowswere previously published as e-singles. This is the first time they will be available in a print format.
My story is Worth the Wait, the second installment of the Ladies of Harper’s Station series. That particular series just ended this past January when my final novella in the series released as part of the collection – Hearts Entwined. Most of the time, my novellas come out as part of a print collection first, then break off into e-singles a few months after the print version releases. This time, however, the e-version came first, and more than a year passed between the digital release and the print version.
One of the benefits of this new collection, though, is the chance to bring Tori and Ben’s story to a group of readers who have not read it before. Many readers prefer print to digital books and simply won’t buy digital. Well, now you don’t have to! With the release of All My Tomorrows, every story in the Ladies of Harper’s Station series is now available in print. Yay!
Benjamin Porter has fallen hard for shopkeeper Victoria Adams. A savvy entrepreneur, Tori is the ideal partner for his business and his life. Too bad she’s against courtship. But Ben is patient, believing a life with Tori to be worth the wait. When an accident strikes, however, what once was a chance at love may be lost forever.
And for those who might not have read any of the Harper’s Station books, here’s your chance to start at the beginning. I’ll be giving away two autographed print copies of the first full-length novel in the series – No Other Will Do. To be entered for a chance to win, simply leave a comment.
Which do you prefer to read – print or e-book?
Would you rather read novellas in collections or as stand alone stories?
I’m not one of those moms who gets everyone dressed up in their Sunday best to take a family photo to be used in Christmas cards. In fact, the last several years I’ve been a complete slacker when it came to mailing out Christmas cheer. No cards at all. Not a one.
This year, I decided to kick that Bah Humbug to the curb and find some Christmas cheer. So I dug through my photo stream to find a shot of the family all together. Not as easy as you might think. Plenty of the kids. Not so many with hubby and I in there with them.
Then I found one! The day we moved my daughter into the dorm. We are all wearing matching ACU shirts (well, except the girl who is actually the student there – ha!) and we look fairly good. I photo-shopped some Christmas hats on to hide some of the been-unloading-boxes-for-an-hour hair and . . . voila!
Family Christmas card!
(Try not to notice how not-thrilled my daughter is. Ha!)
Maybe next year I’ll try to photo-shop Stetsons and cowboy boots on everyone.
May each of you have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, fun, and fantastic fiction!
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Karen’s Big Christmas Giveaway Results
Congratulations go to:
Jazmine Collins – Autographed copy of Heart’s Entwined
Jackie Lyles – Autographed copy of Heart’s Entwined
Mary Wardlaw – Audio book CD set of To Win Her Heart
Brenda Dowdy – Audio book CD set of Heart on the Line
I’ll be contacting the winners via email this week.