Tag: Love Inspired Historical

Parrots, Birdcages and a Giveaway

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Hello everyone.  Winnie Griggs here.  I’m very excited about the recent release of The Road Home, the new novella I wrote as part of the Journeys of the Heart collection.  This story is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but it’s a little bit of a departure for me.  For one thing Anisha, my heroine, has a mother who was born in India and a father who is an American merchant sea captain.

For another, I pictured her with a pet that was a bit out of the ordinary, something to match her own exotic appearance.  And since her father was a sea captain who sailed all over the world, I wasn’t limited to animals in her native country. After trying out several animals, I finally settled on a parrot.  But this in turn spurred me to additional research.  I never realized there were so many species!  From small to quite large, from colorful to drab-in fact there are more than 350 species that belong to the order parrots are members of.  It was quite fun to browse through all the pictures I could find of these colorful, exotic birds.

But I had to narrow my search so I came up with a list of criteria for what characteristics I wanted her feathered companion to have.  He needed to be long-lived, intelligent, loyal, imposing and able to talk (not all parrots can).  I finally settle on the African Grey parrot.  African grey’s, while not the most colorful of the parrot family, have a lot to recommend them.  They are long-lived, in fact have been known to live for upwards of 80 years.  But more importantly, they are considered the most intelligent of the parrot family and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary.  They have been described as having  “… the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old…”  Bingo – this was exactly what I was looking for.  And thus Anisha’s companion, Sundar (which means ‘beautiful’ in Hindi) came to life for me.

Parrot

 

My research into parrots, however, led me down a fun rabbit trail of additional research.  During all of my digging into keeping pet parrots, I found some really gorgeous Victorian birdcages.  I thought I’d share just a few of the images I found with you.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

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So what about you?  Do you have first hand experience with parrots?  If not, how do you feel about them as potential pets – can you picture yourself with one?  Leave a comment today and be entered into the drawing for a copy of the novella collection that contains my story, The Road Home.

 

 

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 Here’s a short excerpt from the opening of the story:

Where had they gotten off to?

Wyatt Murdoch’s irritation was turning into worry. This was the third time his two young charges had tried to slip away from him on their journey from Indiana to Texas, and they’d only made it as far as Arkansas.  Thank goodness they’d arrive at their destination tomorrow.  Of course, that assumed he found them before the train left.  This was the longest they’d managed to keep out of his sight and the train would be resuming its journey in less than twenty minutes.

Why did they keep running away when they had no place to go? And how could a ten year old girl and eight year old boy have so completely disappeared when he’d only turned his back for a moment?

He supposed he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm spring sunshine, especially when they’d been cooped up on the train for four very long days.  But they could have just asked him.

He scanned the horizon and caught sight of the circus tents off in the distance. Of course. That would have drawn Hallie and Jonah like ants to a picnic.

He started off in that direction at a fast walk. If they missed the train because of this nonsense…

He was some distance from the circus tents when he caught sight of his charges. But they weren’t alone. A woman, small in stature but big in presence, walked between them holding onto a hand of each. There was something faintly exotic-looking about her—it had something to do with the warm golden color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.

There was also the fact that she wore some kind of padded leather affair on her left shoulder, and regally perched upon that shoulder was what looked like a large gray parrot.

Someone associated with the circus, no doubt. Was she an actual performer or just an assistant?

More importantly, had she caught the children trying to sneak into the big top or one of the side shows? Or worse yet, had they gotten too close to her parrot and hurt it in some way?

He hoped she was looking for their caretaker—namely him—and not the sheriff. But from the frown on her face and stiff determination of her posture, she was obviously unhappy about something.

He quickened his pace. “You two have a lot to answer for,” he said as soon as he reached them.

But it was the woman who responded. “You are the person responsible for these children?”

He noticed that she had a faint accent of some sort, but he couldn’t quite place it. “I am. And I apologize for whatever they—”

She cut through his apology. “It appears you are not doing a very good job of watching out for them.”

Her accusation and tone got his back up. “Keeping up with them is not the easiest job in the world.”

“So watching over them is your job? Are you their nanny?”

“Are you their nanny?” The parrot squawked. “Are you their nanny?”

There were muffled giggles from the children at the bird’s echoed words, which Wyatt chose to ignore.

He tugged on his cuff, trying to maintain his dignity. “No, I am not their nanny,” he said. “I am their escort. Now if you will just hand them over, we have a train to catch.”

If anything, the woman clasped their hands tighter. “They tell me they ran away because you have not been treating them well.”

Wyatt glanced from Hallie to Jonah, making his displeasure clear. Another loud squawk from the bird did nothing to smooth his temper. “What you should know about these two runaways is that they are not only slippery, but they also lie.”

Her frown only deepened. “Those are harsh words to use about children, sir.”

How in the world had he gotten into this ridiculous discussion with a circus performer? Before he could respond, she turned to the children.

Her expression was that of a schoolmarm handing a failing grade to a favorite student. “Have you been telling me untruths?”

Both children shook their heads vigorously.

“He doesn’t let us do anything fun and he’s always fussing,” Hallie said.

“Anyone can tell he doesn’t even like us,” Jonah added.

The woman once again turned an accusing look his way.

But it was his turn to cut her off before she could speak. “That is neither here nor there, madam. It is my job to escort these children safely into the keeping of their great-uncle, and I intend to do just that. Now, I don’t have time to stand here and argue with you. We need to be on that train when it pulls out from the station.” He held out his left hand, keeping his right carefully down at his side. “Come along you two.”

The children looked up to their circus-performer friend, obviously ready to ask for her support. Had they formed such a quick bond because of the exciting nature of her life? Or was it just that they thought anyone better than he?

To his surprise, the stranger gave them a shake of her head. “Go on with your escort as he asks. It’s his job to keep you safe. And you should apologize for causing him worry, even if you don’t think he likes you. He may not be the most pleasant of people, but he is trying to look out for you, and you should respect him for that, not make his task more difficult.” She shot him a quick glance, then turned back to the children. “Besides, I’m sure he’s not really a bad man at heart.”

Was that condescension in her tone? His irritation changed to shock when the children came to him without further argument.

“We’re sorry, Mr. Murdoch,” Hallie said. “Aren’t we, Jonah?”

Jonah nodded.

Wyatt was dumbfounded. How had she gotten these two mischief makers to obey her without argument?divider002a

 

 

 

JOTH_mediumJourneys Of The Heart

From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance in these novellas written by authors Camille Elliot, Winnie Griggs and Erica Vetsch.  In these three stories you’ll travel alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.

The Road Home by Winnie Griggs

Wyatt Murdoch feels his life is over—his career certainly is.  In fact, he’s agreed to escort two orphans halfway across the country mainly because he needs a distraction.  But when the task proves more than he bargained for, he seeks help from the exotic beauty with the talkative parrot who befriended the children when they slipped away from him.

Anisha Hayes, who’s hiding wounds of her own, has left her uncomfortable home to seek adventure.  However, something about this unorthodox trio touches her heart, so when Wyatt asks for her help she agrees to put her plans on hold to accompany them. After all, it’s only a temporary detour.

But when they reach their destination, both Wyatt and Anisha find it’s not as easy to part ways as they’d planned…

My Beautiful Daughter’s Beautiful Wedding

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Hi!  Winnie Griggs here.  Three weeks ago we had one of those milestone events happen in our family – my youngest daughter got married.  Although there were the requisite number of bumps in the road as far as executing ‘the plan’ for the wedding, the ceremony itself was absolutely beautiful. As the proud mother of the bride, I thought I’d share a few pictures from the big day with you.

White SpacerThese first two are before-and-after shots of the bridesmaids

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Here’s a shot of me and my husband with the bride.  Remember me mentioning there were a few bumps in the road?  You can see the evidence of one of those ‘bumps’ in this shot.  Just before the wedding, I had an allergic reaction to either my make-up or hair spray or both.  As a result, my right eye was swollen almost shut for the whole ceremony and reception.  Needless to say, I tried to duck out of as many photos as possible!

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Here is a shot of all four of my children just before the ceremony started.

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The next two are of my husband escorting the bride down the aisle.  I especially like the second shot – the two bridesmaids visible over my husband’s shoulder are our other two daughters and to the right of the bride are me and my mother.

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And here’s the happy couple!

MW-Bride & groom

Here’s one last shot to show you the cake

MW-Cutting the cake

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into what was a very special day for our family.

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And to celebrate the release this month of Second Chance Hero, the sixth book in my Texas Grooms series, I will be giving a copy to one person who leaves a comment on this post today.

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SECOND CHANCE HERO

Winning the Widow’s Heart 

To help his dying sister, Nate Cooper once broke the law and paid a heavy price for his actions. Now the ex-con turned saddler hopes for a quiet life and new beginning in Turnabout, Texas. Being declared a hero for saving a child’s life, however,  leaves Nate feeling like a fraud.

Since the violent death of her husband, single mom Verity Leggett has attempted to lead a safe life, avoiding danger and excitement at all costs. And her daughter’s handsome rescuer Mr. Cooper seems like a perfectly responsible man, one she can finally rely on.

When his secrets come to light, however, will Verity be able to get over his past and see Nate for the caring man he’s become?

Lacy J Williams ~ Women Docs in the Old West

lacy author photo_webI admire ladies who have done home births. I deeply admire them—but I probably wouldn’t want to be one of them! When it came time to deliver my three children, I wanted the hospital, the nurses, and yes, the doctor there to help me!

And do you know, I never really spared much thought for what my doctor went through to get her education. I mean, I looked at her degree on the wall and thought that’s nice, but I didn’t really THINK about it.

It wasn’t until I began researching THE RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR, that I realized exactly how much women in the United States have had to work to become accepted as medical doctors.

As of 2012, 34% of all physicians and surgeons were women, according to one study1. Compare that to the Old West, where by the year 1900 there were approximately 7,000 women physicians in the entire U.S.2 Only seven thousand among a population of 76 million (according to the 1900 census).

And they had to scrap and fight to win the right to practice medicine. Several of the accounts I read about shared that men would boycott women doctors, refusing treatment to their own detriment. Many men refused to allow their loved ones, wives or daughters, to seek treatment from a female doctor. Prejudice was rampant and women physicians had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to built their practices.

Also when researching for this book, I discovered the grisly truths of mortality rates for women and childbirth (some sources claimed close to 50% of women died because of unclean conditions or after-birth infections). Many women didn’t have a doctor close enough to attend, and relied on neighbors or their husbands to get them through.

Let me tell you that my husband would be traumatized by going it alone! I am so thankful that the medical profession has come such a long way, and grateful to all the women of the past who fought for their dreams.

READER QUESTION: What is one thing you’ve had to scrap or fight for in your life or career?

 

LACY WILL GIVE AWAY TWO COPIES OF THE RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR TO TWO FOLKS WHO LEAVE ACOMMENT.

About LACY:Lacy Williams grew up on a farm, which is where her love of cowboys was born. In reality, she’s married to a right-brained banker (happily with three kiddos). She gets to express her love of western men by writing historical romance. Her books have finaled in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards (2012 & 2013), the Golden Quill and the Booksellers Best Award.

If you would like to keep up with Lacy and her new releases, please join her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/GEkWD

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About RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR

The Cowboy’s Reluctant Sweetheart

Two years shy of his medical degree, cowboy Maxwell White is out of money. So, he’s back in Bear Creek, Wy

oming, working part-time for the local physician. Though he is immediately drawn to the doctor’s lovely, whip-smart daughter, she seems to be irritated by Maxwell’s very existence.

Hattie Powell can’t quash her feelings for the town’s new would-be doctor. But that’s exactly why she must keep him at a distance. Hattie is closer than ever to fulfilling her lifelong wish of becoming a doctor. Now, the only thing standing in her way is the man of her dreams.

Book 2 in the Wyoming Legacy series: United by family, destined for love

Book 3, THE WRANGLER’S INCONVENIENT WIFE is out August 1, 2014!

 

Links, in case you want more info:

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2 http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/wpc/wimtimeline.pdf

 

Welcome, Naomi Rawlings


The Teton Mountains—Before Tourism Took Over

 

Naomi Rawlings AuthorHi Everyone,

Thanks for having me today. This is my first time on Petticoats and Pistols, and I’m excited to be here. Usually I’m busy writing stories set during the French Revolution or in Michigan’s blustery Upper Peninsula, but this month I’ve got a western novel releasing called The Wyoming Heir. This book is special to me not only because it features a rather handsome cowboy, but because my cowboy is from one of the most beautiful parts of the country I’ve ever laid eyes on: The Jackson Hole and Teton Valleys.

This beautiful area harbors the splendid Teton Mountain Range, and it is a breathtaking site to behold. The Jackson Hole Valley was named after an early explorer and trapper, David Edward Jackson. However, John Coulter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, is credited as being the first white man to ever lay eyes on this part of the country in 1807.

When Coulter arrived back east with his reports of the beautiful Teton Range, society was skeptical and slow to believe him. Easterners had never seen such bold, craggy peaks as those of the Tetons. And can you blame them for doubting Coulter? Would you believe the Teton Mountains existed without being able to see photographs?

Painters and photographers did eventually make their way west to record the beauty of the Tetons, but not for another half century. The landscape has since been captured by such famous artists as:

Albert Bierstadt

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Thomas Moran (This painting hangs in the Oval Office of the White House and faced the president.)

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And later, Ansel Adams

The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_River Adams

 

Though Coulter originally saw the Jackson Hole Valley in 1807, it wasn’t until the 1870’s that settlers came to the area. The valley floors contain poor soil for farming, but excellent land for grazing cattle. Thus ranchers such as my hero, Luke Hayes, moved into the valleys.

Today the Jackson Hole and Teton Valleys are full of tourism and dude ranches, but back in 1893, nothing but miles and miles of prairie existed. In fact, my novel takes place one year before the town of Jackson was officially incorporated. Ranching this area of the country would have been a lonely, desolate life, but one full of natural beauty and splendor.

In The Wyoming Heir, Luke Hayes must leave his beloved Teton Valley to travel east, but his love for the West haunts him the entire time he’s gone.

What about you? Do you have a favorite place in the American West? What makes this area so special to you?

 

Naomi will be giving away one copy of The Wyoming Heir (winner’s choice of ebook or paperback). Please leave a comment in order to enter.


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The Wyoming Heir:

Given a choice, Luke Hayes wouldn’t ever leave his Wyoming ranch. Yet when his estranged grandfather dies, leaving him everything, he’ll travel to Valley Falls, New York—but only to collect his sister and his inheritance. He won’t be roped into saving a floundering girls’ school, no matter what mathematics teacher Elizabeth Wells says.

Elizabeth has defied social convention and her own family for the sake of her beloved Hayes Academy. Luke is pure rancher, from the tip of his Stetson to the scuff on his boots, yet he’s also becoming her unlikely ally. Only he can help save her job and school…but how much will she lose when the time comes for him to leave?

For more information about Naomi and her novels, visit her website at www.NaomiRawlings.com.

One-Room School House by Rhonda Gibson!

RhondaGibson Oklahoma Trip May 2011 034Teachers in one-room schools were often former students of the same school they taught in. During the winter months they would get to school early to get a fire started in a pot belly stove so the building would be warm for the students’ arrival. Sometimes, depending on where in the country they were located, they would even prepare a hot, noon meal on top of the stove, usually soup or some kind ofredschoolhouse stew.

Pay varied.  Some teachers made as little as $4 – $11 per month, but others earned as much as $25 per month. Many schools were only in session 3 – 4 months out of the year since children were needed to help with spring chores and fall harvesting. That meant the teacher had to find another job or live a full year on only 4 months salary. Although some women made teaching their career, a substantial number of women taught for only a year or two, then married and moved on to new challenges. This pattern, as well as the relatively low pay, led to a very high turnover among teachers

Most small towns could only afford a one-room school building made from stone, wood, and sometimes, even sod. We often tend to think of these schoolhouses as being red, but most were white. Some had the luxury of a school bell, but many didn’t.

A normal school day ran from nine am to four pm, with two fifteen minute recesses, one in the morning and another in the afternoon and an hour for lunch. Recess was spent outside on sunny days and children played with ropes, jacks, balls and various games with each other. If a tree was available, you might see a rope swing with a board to sit on hanging from its branches.

The children generally went up to the eighth grade. During those years, teachers taught many subjects: reading (most of the time from the Bible) grammar, penmanship, spelling, history, geography, and ciphering (mathematics). Children usually wrote on slates while the teacher used chalk to write on boards that had been painted black–which is why it became known as the “blackboard.”

The older students had the responsibility of bringing in water and fetching coal or wood for the stove. According to their size and gender, younger students would be given chores such as sweeping, cleaning the blackboard, or taking the erasers outside for dusting. If a student was naughty, the chores of the younger student became the naughty student’s job after school as a form of punishment.

Taming the Texas RancherIn Taming the Texas Rancher, Hannah Young is a schoolteacher who now wants to be a rancher’s wife and work alongside her husband. Imagine her surprise when Daniel Westland, her intended, has other plans and has built a school house on the ranch for her to teach the children that live on the ranch.

Daniel and Hannah convert the storage room at the back of the school house into Hannah’s home until they get married–if they get married. This wasn’t commonly done and was a work of my own fictional mind. (Big Smile)

One room school houses aren’t common today but I’d love to hear about any that you might have come across so please, tell me all about them.

Please join in the conversation and be eligible to win a free copy of my Love Inspired Historical, Taming the Texas Rancher!

Also, my ebook, Her Christmas Angel, is free today!  Get a copy for your Kindle now!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-timber-house-snowy-landscape-image22131097

 

To learn more about Rhonda Gibson and her books, check out her website:  http://rhondagibsonwebpage.blogspot.com.

Rhonda’s newest release, Taming the Texas Rancher, is available on Amazon now!

Music To Write By . . .

Has anyone else heard The Piano Guys?  I saw them on TV the other night for the first time and fell head-over-heels in love with their music. When they played Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I felt like I was hearing the melody for the first time. Their two CDs are winging their way to house, or maybe driving in the mail truck. I live a mile from an Amazon fulfillment center, and there are times I wish I could just stop by and pick stuff up, but that’s another conversation.

The Piano Guys CD are going into what I call the soundtrack pile.  These are CDs I play while I write.  The music is all over the road–everything from country to chamber music to Led Zeppelin.

A quick word about CDs . . . I have an iPod but I can’t write with ear-buds or even headphones.  Having music in the background blocks out distractions, but having it in ear is just too much. So, old fashioned or not, there’s an three-disc player in my office that usually one.

Here are some of the mixes for my books . . .

For The Maverick Preacher and The Outlaw’s Return, I listened to a lot of Johnny Cash.  His song “Hurt” captures the feelings of despair, regret and acceptance with amazing clarity.

Any Led Zeppelin fans?  I’m not really big on Led Zep, but The Ballad of Evermore played constantly for  West of Heaven, especially during the scenes where Ethan grieves his wife in one breath and admits to loving Jayne at the same time.

One of my favorite performers is Greg Buchanan, a Christian harpist who plays both hymns and other music.  No lyrics, just amazing harmonies. I heard him in concert in the middle of writing Of Men and Angels and still play that music regularly.

Movie soundtracks appeal to me as well. The Piano is pretty strange movie, and the music reflects the edginess.  Love it!  I played this a lot for my old HHs.

The soundtracks for my Love Inspired Historicals tended to be more country.  The soundtrack to Broken Bridges, the movie with Toby Keith as an alcoholic country singer getting his act together, played constantly during Home Again.  Then there’s the ultimate go-to music for any of my westerns. That’s Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads, especially “El Paso.”

This list wouldn’t be complete with a mention of country singer Gary Allan.  I heard Smoke Rings in the Dark  driving home from work one day, went to Wal-Mart and bought it. More often than not, Gary’s music occupies one of the three CD slots, sometimes more than three.  He’s got a whiskey voice, more emotion than just about anyone, and gut-wrenching lyrics that feed this writer’s imagination.  I have a lot of favorites. Among them are Loving You Against My Will, Along the Way, See If I Care, It Ain’t the Whiskey and  Just Got Back From Hell.

Another CD I play a lot is Adele.  No surprise there!  Right now, I’m listening to Celtic Woman, Alison Krauss and Civil Wars. What about you?  What kind of music do you like?  I’m always looking for something new.

The California Channel Islands And The Seeds of a New Idea

One of my favorite books as child was The Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. A Newberry Award winner published in 1960, it’s the story of Karana, a Chumash Indian girl who is left alone on San Nicholas Island off the coast of California.  When a Russian ship arrives for the purpose of hunting sea otters, a fight breaks out between the Russian fishermen and the native island dwellers. Karana is the lone survivor on both sides.

San Nicholas is one of the eight channel island off the coast of California. Some of the islands are desolate and deserted, home to only birds and seals. A few of them are used by the military, and others form the Channel Islands National Park. Only Catalina Island, located 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles is populated.

These islands strike me as a perfect setting for a historical romance, in part because of Margaret Holden Eaton and her autobiography, Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife.  A Canadian woman, she relocated to Santa Barbara around the turn of the century.  There she met a sea captain and married him in 1903.  They moved to Santa Cruz Island, the biggest of the eight islands, where they ran a small hunting and fishing business.  The island was inhabited with wild boars, otters and all sorts of sea life. The Eatons and Santa Cruz Island somehow caught the eye of 1920s Hollywood. A few movies were filmed there, and Margaret’s book shows pictures of actors John Barrymore and William Boyd in his pre Hopalong Cassidy days.

What an interesting setting these islands would be for a book . . . It’s one of the places I can feel in my bones.  I’ve never been to either Santa Cruz Island or San Nicholas Island, but I once had the pleasure of camping on Anacapa Island.  Standing on what’s literally a slab of eroding land twelve miles off the coast, seeing the city lights so far away and hearing only the lap of waves–not noisy cars–is an experience I treasure to this day.

Then there’s Catalina Island . . . Catalina is a populated tourist spot and has a history all its own.  My own best memory is taking a boat to the island for a family weekend.  Halfway there we were suddenly surrounded by an acre of dolphins. At least a hundred of them were jumping in perfect arcs right in front of us. I’ll never forget that scene . . . I wish I had a picture of it, but we weren’t quick enough (or skilled enough) with the camera to get a shot that did the moment justice. I’m planning to use this scene in the book I’m working on right now, a contemporary romance for Bethany House.

California’s in my blood.  How about you?  Where are you from and what are you favorite bits of local history? I’d love to hear about your home towns and places that are special to you!

Time For A Make-Over

Last Thursday was a big day for me. I hit “send” on a new ms for Bethany House. It’s a contemporary instead of a historical, but the story has many the same elements that characterize my LIHs.  The hero owns a truck and a Harley instead of a few horses, but he’s a cowboy at heart. If I put the heroine in the Old West, she’d be running the local paper like she does in the contemporary.  No website, of course. But she’d still be in the thick of things and good at her job.  

I don’t have a final title yet, but the  tentative pub date is Spring 2014.  I’m glad it’s a ways off, because I have a lot of background work to do.  my website (www.victoriabylin.com)  in desperate need of a makeover, and so is my social media stuff.  The fact I call it “stuff” tells you this isn’t my wheelhouse.

So here’s what I’d like to know . . . What are the most important things to you as readers about an author’s internet presence? I’d love to hear what you think about everything from Twitter to book trailers to websites.

 To say thank you, I’m going to give away a few books.  To enter the drawing, just leave a comment. Three lucky winners will get to choose a title from my backlist.  Just one exception–I’m out of Wyoming Lawman.  (I either gave away a lot more of them than I thought, or my closet ate a box of author copies.) 

Here are some questions to get us started. Answer one or as many as you’d like. Or make up your own.  That’s even better.

 The first place I go online to check out an author’s work is _______________.

My favorite place on an author’s website is ___________________. (booklists, FAQs, bio, etc.)

I don’t like websites that __________________________.

Pinterest rocks because ___________________________.

Twitter rocks because ____________________________.

Facebook rocks because __________________________.

I love book trailers because _______________________.

I skip book trailers because _______________________.

I like to read reviews because _____________________.

I never read reviews because _____________________.

 Thank you all for your input!  Check back late tonight for the drawing winners.

 

My Five Fictional Favorites . . . By Victoria Bylin

Quick!  Write down your five favorite novels. Don’t think too long or too hard . . . Just pick the first five titles that come to mind regardless of genre or when you read them. I was surprised at the books that immediately leapt to mind. Some are old; some are new. Either way, each one is special to me.

Here’s what I picked:

Number OneThe Outsider  by Penelope Williamson. This is my go-to book for fictional inspiration. The story opens with a severely wounded gunfighter staggering on to the farm owned by Rachel Yoder and her young son.  Rachel is recently widowed and part of a “Plain” community similar to the Mennonites.  I’ll never forget closing this book at about 3 a.m. and thinking, “I want to write this exact kind of story.” What makes this book so special to me is the mix of faith and rugged realism. Add in Penelope Williamson’s lyrical prose and you have the reason I stayed up half the night to finish it, and why I cried happy tears at the end.

Number Two:  This selection surprised me.  I don’t generally like books set in ancient times, particularly ancient Rome.  Gladiators? No thanks.  A glossary? Call me lazy, but I get tired of looking up strange words.  All that changed when my dental hygienist handed me the first two books in Francine Rivers’ the Mark of the Lions series. Do you know how it is when a dentist or a dental hygienist has you captive? When they”re talking and you want  to say something, but you have stuff in your mouth and can’t respond? My hygienist raved about these stories, then gave me a set of the books.  She

was right. They’re great. I became so involved with the characters that I couldn’t stop reading. Hadassah and Marcus and Artretes came alive for me.

Number Three:  Jane Eyre . . . I’ve loved this story since the made-for-TV movie with Susannah York and George C. Scott.  He was perfect as Rochester–gravelly voiced, arrogant, tortured.  Timothy Dalton is a strong second. He’s a little bit too good looking to match the Rochester in my mind, but that’s more than fine with me. I”ve seen just about every Jane Eyre movie ever made. Some are better than others, but the book trumps all of them.

Number Four:   The Reluctant Prophet series by Nancy Rue is about a woman who leaves her comfortable church and life, buys a Harley and becomes involved with the homeless and prostitutes in the bad part of her affluent town. The Book Club I belong to read the first one and all of us had the same passionate reaction.  These books are lifted us up and challenged us all at the same time.  I have two sets and often loan them out.   It”s also the reason I”ve been working on a contemporary romance with a western flavor.

Number Five: Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion was my favorite childhood book  until I read Gone With the Wind in middle school.  Alec Ramsey and his spirited horse were the stuff of dreams for this city girl, and those stories certainly influenced my decision to write a western as my first-ever ms.  The entire series is wonderful.  It’s full of adventure, courage and friendship and I still love it.

Those are my five fabulous favorites.  How about you?  If you pick five books off the top of your head, which ones come to mind?

DEBRA ULLRICK ~ ROMANTICIZING RANCHING


Boy, howdy, do we romanticize the old west ranching days or what? Let me tell you, there’s nothing romantic about ranching. Or is there?

My husband and I worked and lived on mountain cattle ranches for over 25 years. I remember my first year working on the ranch was a real shocker. As a rodeo barrel racer, I never dreamed how difficult it would be working with cattle.

Sorry to bust anyone’s bubble about those big doe-eyed, four-legged animals, but them cows sure are stupid. I could never figure out why they just didn’t save themselves the trouble of getting poked and prodded by just walking into the chute when they were coaxed to. When my husband had to get tough with them, me in my ignorance would holler at him and say, “H-o-n, treat ‘em with kindness.” He would just give me a look that said, yeah right lady. I truly felt that way until one day when I had roped a calf and had finally gotten it in the alley between the corrals. I jumped off my horse, and when I went to remove my rope from around the little “darlin’” calf’s neck, the thing waylaid me in the shin. I was so mad, I started pounding on that little duffer with my rope. (Please note that my pounding would be like getting a slight punch on

the arm.) My husband peeked over the fence and said, “Treat ‘em with kindness, huh, Deb?” To which I replied, “Oh, shut up!”

Ranching is hard work. Actually it’s a lifestyle that you have to love because you live it every day by working from sunup to sundown and the work is never done. When you finish with a long arduous, sleep-deprived calving season, then there’s the branding, the moving of cattle from one grazing parcel to another all summer long, the doctoring, irrigating meadows, the long haying seasons, the weaning, etcetera, etcetera, and then the cycle begins anew.

Living in town now, however, has made me appreciate the lifestyle I used to have. Things were much simpler. Life was much simpler. And now because I miss ranching so much, I set a lot of my stories in the ranch and county where I used to live, and relive those days through my characters.

Sunny Weston, the heroine in my Colorado Courtship story, The Rancher’s Sweetheart, loves ranching too. In fact, it’s in her blood, it’s all she knows. But there are those that don’t think Sunny’s capable of running her own spread. She’s out to prove them all wrong. That is, if love doesn’t get in the way.

So, is there romance in ranching?

Well, just ride through the trees with the man you love and discover hidden waterfalls, wild strawberry patches, abandoned broken down homestead cabins that scream of stories to be told, watch wild animals in their natural habitat, or have your hubby pick you a batch of wildflowers and give them to you when you least expect it. Or go for a sleigh ride together while feathery snowflakes are falling, or cuddle with your hunky cowboy husband in the pickup with the heater blowing full blast under a snow covered windshield while you wait to make sure a mama cow is going to have her calf successfully. Or take a walk on a warm sunny evening under a canopy of stars listening to a chorus of frogs, water running, coyotes howling, and owls hooting. I’ve experienced all this and more. So while there may be plenty of work to go around, there’s equally plenty of romance to go around too.

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